EXCERPT: When I left New York City, I left with my suitcase filled with my best clothes (admittedly, not many), some personal stuff, a canvas roll of professional knives, and my ego in splinters. Heather was not exactly a happy camper when I gave my notice, which took effect immediately after saying ‘I quit.’ She was eight months pregnant at the time but looked ten, and most of her line cooks were junkies, or whack jobs. I felt bad about leaving like that. But shit happens in this business. I tried not to stare down at her pumpkin belly as I said the dreaded phrase. I tried not to dwell on the fact that her body would soon burst with life, something mine would never do. She was already short-staffed on the line, and the restaurant was packed to the gills night after night.
Heather was a victim of her own success. If I could have stayed and helped her until she found a replacement, I would have. But in the fragile state I’d descended into, I knew I wouldn’t last another minute in that place. Dropping the ball in that fashion was a terrible thing to do, and considered one of the worst offenses in our profession. But what choice did I have? When the inner demons awaken from their deep slumber, there’s not much one can do but let fate run its course.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: Lucy Abbott never pictured herself coming back to Fawn Grove, Maine. Yet after serving time in Afghanistan, then years spent as a sous chef in New York, she’s realized her only hope of moving on from the past involves facing it again. But Fawn Grove, like Lucy herself, has changed.
Lucy’s sister, Wendy, is eager to help her adapt, almost stifling her with concern. At the local diner, Lucy is an exotic curiosity–much like the refugees who’ve arrived in recent years. When a fifteen-year-old Muslim girl is found murdered along the banks of the river, difficult memories of Lucy’s time overseas come flooding back and she feels an automatic connection. At first glance, the tragedy looks like an honor killing. But the more Lucy learns about her old hometown, the less certain that seems.
There is menace and hostility here, clothed in neighborly smiles and a veneer of comfort. And when another teen is found dead in a cornfield, his throat slit, Lucy–who knows something about hiding secrets–must confront a truth more brutal than she could have imagined, in the last place she expected it . . .
MY THOUGHTS: Wow! And I don’t often say this, but Wow! After d-n-fing a previous book by this author, he has taken me by surprise with Pray for the Girl. It is topical on more than one front, fast paced, and contains many surprises.
The author doesn’t give much away. Particularly during the first part of the book, he makes the reader work for every nugget of information, but it is worth it. There are few likeable characters in this book, and few, if any, are what they seem.
There are so many current issues woven into the storyline: the struggle and disintegration of small town life; the refugee crisis; racial intolerance; drug abuse; veteran health, and others that I won’t go into because to do so would give away valuable aspects of the plot. It is, amongst other things, a valuable social commentary.
This is a dark read but, despite the grim picture I may have painted, not a depressing one. It is a read that kept me turning pages long into the night, and continuing to read when I ought to have been packing for our upcoming move.
THE AUTHOR: Joseph Souza’s award-winning short stories have been published in various literary journals throughout the country. Winner of the Andre Dubus Award for short fiction, he also won Honorable Mention for the Al Blanchard Award and the 2013 Maine Literary Award. His mystery, UNPAVED SURFACES, was published by Kindle Press in 2015 and was an Amazon bestseller. NEED TO FIND YOU, his crime thriller set in Portland, was the first novel to go direct-to-publish by Kindle Press. Visit josephsouza.net for more information about his work.
He lives near Portland, Maine with his wife and two children and enjoys running, cooking and playing golf when not writing.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Joseph Souza for providing me with a digital ARC of Pray for the Girl via Kensington Books and Netgalley. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2761812627