feature: Life Stories in Literature

Reviews:  2 Books I Read in April


Here are two more novels I read in April. Since almost all of the books on my TBR shelf now relate to Life Stories in Literature, it’s not surprising that they share many of the same themes.

Life Stories in Literature




we are what we remember

inside vs. outside stories


hidden identities & secrets


creating/controlling one’s own narrative

cultural appropriation

alternate life options

alternative selves

turning points/life decisions

when/how lives intersect

multiple points of view

rewriting history

change your story, change your life

Book Cover: The Match by Harlan Coben

The Match by Harlan Coben

  • Brilliance Audio, 2022
  • Narrator: Steven Weber

In his 2020 novel The Boy from the Woods, Coben introduced Wilde, who had been found living in the woods 30 years earlier. Doctors thought he was about 6 years old when he was found, though he had no memory of who he was, where he came from, or how he ended up living alone in the woods. He grew up and even served in the military, but he’s always been most comfortable living alone, off the grid.

The Match is the sequel to The Boy from the Woods. Wilde, who still knows nothing about his origin, has finally summoned up the courage to submit a DNA sample to one of the genealogy companies in hopes of finding a relative who might be able to fill in the blanks of his personal history. 

Wilde receives a couple of matches from his DNA sample. He sees his father in the opening pages of the novel. The other match is a more distant one, and when Wilde starts to investigate he gets caught up in the worlds of reality TV, social-media influencers, and internet trolls.

Since this is a Harlan Coben thriller, Wilde’s search for his life history is complicated:

“I will take various ideas that have nothing to do with each other and see what they have in common. That explains why I have a lot of twists.”

Harlan Coben

I’m always amazed by the way Coben can take several individual ideas and weave them together into a credible, suspenseful story that keeps me frantically turning pages until I finally reach the end. Coben’s books are not only entertaining; they also demonstrate the truth that life is an on-going series of inter-related connections and events. And yes, living and understanding life is often very complicated.

© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown

shelf full of books with pastel spines, no titles
Book Cover: Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

  • HarperCollins, 2018
  • Hardcover, 344 pages
  • ISBN 978-0-06-282319-9

In her debut novel Caz Frear introduces Cat Kinsella, who has overcame a troubled childhood to become a Detective Constable with the Metropolitan Police Force. And she’s just caught a murder case.

Eighteen years earlier, when she was ten, Cat had been in the car with her father when he picked up a hitchhiking teenager, Maryanne Doyle, while on vacation in Ireland. Shortly thereafter Maryanne Doyle disappeared. Cat has always wondered whether her father could have been responsible for the disappearance.

When the victim in Cat’s case, who had been living in London under a different name, is positively identified as Maryanne Doyle from Dublin, all Cat’s childhood suspicions and insecurities come flooding back. Could her father have been involved in the woman’s murder? 

The body was found near a pub that her father runs. Now Cat will have to question her father, whom she blames for her mother’s death, as a murder suspect—without revealing her possible connection with the case to her superiors. As she walks this tightrope between investigating her first case as a homicide detective and making a mistake that could destroy her career, Cat learns a lot about secrets, lies, memories, and family dynamics—all the big themes that play out in life stories.

There’s one scene in this novel that I particularly appreciated. As a young detective constable, Cat is partnered with a middle-aged, experienced detective named Parnell. Parnell has four children, the oldest of whom, Dan, is a teenager Cat describes as “not too far off my age” (p. 134). 

One evening after work Cat and Parnell go out for drinks. Cat has a penchant for drinking too much, too fast. She’s already pretty well along when she asks to see photos of Parnell’s kids. She’s struck by the photo of handsome Dan and begins teasing Parnell about setting Dan and her up for a date. When Parnell replies that she’s not Dan’s type, she takes offense. When she asks what’s wrong with her, Parnell replies, “You’re female, for a start.”

It takes the woozy Cat a couple of beats to catch his meaning. Then she asks Parnell “Why’ve you never mentioned Dan’s gay?”

And Parnell, bless his heart, replies, “I’ve never mentioned Adam’s gluten-intolerant either.” 

Cat continues with some clumsy banter, and Parnell adds, “I’ve never mentioned the twins are left-handed, either.”

And isn’t this as things should be: sexuality as an incidental descriptor, not the defining characteristic of an individual?

Good for you, Parnell. And well done, Caz Frear.

This book had been sitting on my TBR shelf since its publication in August 2018. I’m happy to discover that there are now two more books in the Cat Kinsella series:

  • Stone Cold Heart (2019)
  • Shed No Tears (2020)

I look forward to reading them.

© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown

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