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Friday, July 3, 2009

Review: No One You Know by Michelle Richmond

Twenty years ago, Ellie Enderlin’s sister was murdered and the crime went unsolved. Lila was a student at Stanford, an up-and-coming mathematician with a bright future, the genius daughter that is a source of obvious pride in her family. Her death changed their family forever. Now, two decades later, Ellie comes into possession of Lila’s notebook, a book she carried with her everywhere she went. The notebook sends Ellie on a search to uncover the secrets that Lila kept, and the truth of her life and death.

In Michelle Richmond’s, second novel, No One You Know, we meet a family at the worst time in their lives, and through the eyes of the youngest daughter can see the ramifications of their loss. Ellie has always defined herself as the “bad daughter”, not because she’s “bad”, but because her sister, Lila, was the “good daughter” and if there is a “good daughter” then it stands to reason there is a “bad” one. Ellie has never felt like she has had the drive or ambition of her brilliant older sister, and it seemed to me, has sort of felt like a loser all her life. It was interesting in the novel to see how Ellie learned about her sister, about who she really was, not the idealized version that Ellie had built up in her mind.

“But the fact was that she had been twenty-two years old when she died, old enough to know what she was doing, old enough to understand what an affair might do to a marriage. I tried to chase the thoughts away. To even contemplate that Lila might have been at fault in anyway felt wrong. In my story, she had always been blameless.”

The slow changes that we see Ellie undergo in the novel make it worth the read. Ellie has spent most of her life guarded and self-contained, sort of the “love ‘em and leave ‘em” type. I enjoyed the slow unfurling of both the storyline and Ellie. And the book is chockfull of great lines about storytelling:

“A story does not only belong to the one who is telling it. It belongs, in equal measure, to the one who is listening.”

Lest we forget, Lila was a mathematician, so of course, math plays an interesting part in the novel as well. I spent a couple of minutes playing around with the Goldbach Conjecture before I remembered that I stink at math and don’t like math. But when a story contains a line like “Every even integer greater than two can be expressed as the sum of two primes…” you just gotta start thinking, “hmmm….28, 14 and 14…no…13 and 15….yeah, that’s it….oh wait…I hate math….”

I liked Richmond’s writing style; she sets the scene quite nicely, with a flair for description that makes it easy to “see” what she sees. (But without the lyrical poetic stuff that takes three paragraphs to say, “It was foggy” that some authors use…) I liked her character development; she has an eye for detail that really brings the people on the pages to life. I haven’t read her first book, A Year of Fog, but after finishing No One You Know, I was curious enough to head to Amazon and check it out. It sounds like an interesting read as well, and I’ll be adding it to my teetering tower o’ To Be Read books. (aka…the teetering tower o’ TBR…nice alliteration, huh?)

My rating:


Melanie said...

This book looks great. I stink at math too. I love the cover, and the premise sounds intriguing.

Very nice alliteration, indeed! :)

bermudaonion said...

I've read great reviews of both of Richmond's books, so I really want to try one of them one of these days.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

This one sounds interesting.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I listened to the audio version and thought it was very good.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you reviewed this. I got this, but forgot why I wanted it. Nice reminder! :--)