Unbecoming–Rebecca Scherm


Paris.  Antiques.  Art history.  A thriller.  What is not to like?

The pace.  The heroine.  Grace’s home life is “messy, broken” according to the fly leaf.  What’s broken?  Her parents had her out of wedlock, separated for a time, married other people, then reunited, married, and had sons, who are the apples of their eyes.  Grace feels like the outsider in her family.  Of married, working, non-abusive, non-alcoholic parents.  She chooses, instead, to make herself part of her rich neighbor’s family by playing a role, the cute daughter her neighbors never had, the lovable gal pal turned girlfriend of their son.  She secretly marries their son, but her facades begin to fall away when she moves to New York for a year of college and her role of slick city girl and lovable small-town girl come into conflict.

The story is told by moving between past and present, which should build suspense, but that instead begins tiresome.  Grace is in Paris restoring antiques under an assumed name and fighting anxiety as her husband and his best friend are released from prison.  Their crime–robbing a local museum and causing the death of the caretaker–are slowly spun out at an excruciating pace.  Everything in the plot is spun out in this fashion, and that becomes a problem very quickly.  This, however, could be overcome if Grace were likeable or, barring that, intriguing.  She is, instead, just annoying.  I kept reading not because she or the plot were compelling, but because I really wanted to find a saving grace in a novel that earned the high praise it has received.  In the end, I had to admit to myself I had chosen a lemon and spent precious reading time trying to prove myself right rather than cutting my losses and moving on.  The ending, which was meant, I think, to be complicated and clever, was just the icing on the cake.

Finished 8/2016



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