Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

By the time books arrive at my library after months of sitting in my request queue, I usually forget how I heard of it in the first place.  Such was the case with Unbecoming, and the cover didn’t grab my attention.  I very nearly decided to return it unread, but I decided to give the first page a cursory look.  The very first sentence grabbed my attention, and by the end of the first chapter, I knew I was going to read the whole thing.

The first lie Grace had told Hanna was her name.

Unbecoming is an excellent example of one of my favorite tropes:  the unreliable narrator.  Grace shares what she wants to share, and as the reader, I had no idea how much of the information presented was truth, fibs, omissions, or outright lies.  I loved it!  The suspense was heightened even more by alternating sections that described her present life in Paris or her past in Tennessee.  Halfway through the book, I was dying to know what had happened in the past as well as what would happen to her in the future.  The double mystery made the book twice as interesting.

I don’t want to say too much, because I want people to experience the book as I did:  totally unprepared.  The characters are rich, the themes fascinating, and the plot fantastic.  What more do you need?  Read it now!  (Or click through to read the book jacket, which does do a great job of setting up the story.)

22571781Book Jacket

In a grubby antiques shop on the outskirts of Paris, Grace restores bric-a-brac, mends teapots, resets gems.  She calls herself Julie, says she’s from California, and slips back to a rented room at night.  From an anonymous Internet cafe she checks the website of her hometown paper.

Back in Garland, Tennessee, two young men are about to be paroled.  Both have served time for a crime about which Grace knows a great deal.  Their daring escapade went bad, but not before Grace made it onto a plane–contraband in her carry-on–and began methodically disassembling the known facts of her life.  Now she knows that somehow, a piece of her past will find her.  As the story unfolds, taking us from small-town USA to the heights and depths of the art scene in New York and Europe, we learn who Grace has been:  a girl with a messy, broken home life and a knack for making herself lovable–until she comes face-to-face with what she actually wants, and everything falls apart.  And so begins a cat-and-mouse waiting game, a tale of lies and deception, desperate stakes, and dual identities.

Mesmerizing, atmospheric, and psychologically nuanced, Unbecoming reinvents the heist plot and takes up the making of a femme fatale–this time, from a woman’s point of view.  Rebecca Scherm’s novel is truly a brilliant debut, with echoes of classics from Hitchcock and Highsmith but written with the subtlety and precision of the best contemporary fiction.

Release Date:  January 2015


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