Thursday, 10 September 2009

Review: The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry

A highway accident, a man with amnesia, a supportive wife wanting to save an ailing marriage. Ingredients for a good story in the first place. But there's far more to it than that. The "new" Craig, who remembers nothing of his prior life, is suddenly more loving than the man Denise thought she knew - and more committed to the family than she would have believed just days ago.

So what is going on here? Clues begin to appear, solid evidence that Craig had been a man with two lives before losing his memory. Denise battles to forgive him, this familiar stranger with no recall of the betrayals he orchestrated himself.

As more and more of the truth is discovered, there are more and more surprises waiting for Denise and the boys, and for young Samantha, a leukemia patient they met in the hospital. I tell you, just when you think you've figured it out - wham! Another astonishing layer is uncovered, culminating in one of fiction's most cunning plot twists to date. Nothing is as it seems, yet when all is revealed my reaction is "of course!" So a canny reader might figure it out earlier with some effort!

The tale is told in a sympathetic back-and-forth banter between His and Hers chapters. It resonates within me for a couple of reasons. First, I had the opportunity to meet the author last year, and I can say that her personality shines from every page. What a wonderful story she has constructed from disparate slices of real life. Secondly, I recently spent a lot of time visiting a critical care ward, and this book describes its atmosphere perfectly. And I suppose thirdly, because when I got to the end and discovered the truth of the matter, I realised this story has more in common with my own life than I ever imagined. But I can't say any more in that regard or I'll spoil it for you.

In brief? This is an author to watch out for in future. Get ahold of this book and let it wrap you up in its reality, clear as a knife-edge and never retreating in the face of truth.
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