Shelter Needs Part 1

This month I have been stressing a bit about the fact that we will be meeting with a Realtor and a homebuilder in August to see if we can actually afford to buy a new construction home. The timeline would be perfect: builds starting in September/October finishing in February/March. Our current lease is up in mid-May 2019, so that would give us a couple of months to transition and get the rental cleaned and ready for inspection.

I’ll be making another post covering my worries about this process later. I wanted to talk about renting houses and apartments. I’ve been renting since January 2005 and if my bumbling experience can help you improve yours, I am glad to share. Today we’ll look at all the places I rented and lived in on my own and in a follow up post we’ll explore my rental experiences with the husband in tow.

The first place I ever rented was a small attic apartment in Bangor, Maine. I had just ended a 3 year relationship (1 year engagement), gotten a new night job as a telemarketer, and was starting my student teaching assignment in the spring term of my senior year of college. Instead of staying on campus in my cozy single room I decided to stretch my wings and live on my own. I would avoid parking issues on campus when I returned in the evening and I would have a shorter drive to both the student teaching and my job. The logic was sound, but an important lesson I learned from this apartment was to keep looking until you find one with a real bathroom. A bathroom with a weird clawfoot tub that you have to buy one of those shower hoses for that falls off all the time and hooks and nails for the ceiling to hang the shower curtain from because there isn’t a shower rod might not be the best choice.

My second rental experience was in extreme northern Maine. My first teaching assignment was hours away from even the most major interstate. It was the kind of town that just has a blinking yellow/red light in the middle of it. The town police chief rented me his house for $395 a month. I had a furnished, 2-story house to knock around in that fortunately had a washer/dryer but unfortunately did not include heat. I didn’t know to ask about this, but when I ran out of heating oil in December and discovered I couldn’t afford more on my $24,000 a year salary, I learned a valuable lesson: NEVER RENT IN A PLACE WITH SNOW THAT DOESN’T INCLUDE HEAT IN THE RENT.

When I left (was run out of) that little town I moved to Arizona to teach and get my master’s degree at Arizona State University. I reserved an apartment using the internet and phone calls. I remember quite distinctly that I said to the woman at the complex “I am going to be living there alone and I can’t afford to fly out to see it. You have to be honest with me, is this a safe place to live?” I was so fucking stupid when I was 22. I drove cross-country in a Toyota Corolla packed full of all my belongings (and my cat Chloe). We arrived just as the complex office was closing to sign the lease and move in. I lived there for one year and had to be fumigated three times for German cockroaches, lost water twice due to water main breaks in the area, had someone break my master bedroom window and try to break in one morning, and had no washer/dryer but (thankfully) a laundry room in the complex. Lesson learned here was not to rent sight unseen, but I didn’t really have a choice and again, I was really dumb/inexperienced.

So as my finances improved a bit (as a result of an influx of student loans from my masters program) I looked for a better place to live. I now had a whole list of things I wanted in an apartment: a real bathroom, clarity about what is included in the rent, safety, and a washer/dryer in the unit. So I moved just a little bit west to a safer area, a gated complex, into a one-bedroom with a washer/dryer in unit. It is one of the nicest places I have ever lived, it was just a shame that I could not afford to furnish it with anything other than my IKEA platform bed, office chair, ad computer desk. My tv and internet router sat on the floor. Any gathering I had was a BYOF(urniture) gathering. If I had stayed longer I probably could have furnished it slowly, paid on my student loans for a while, and continued to gain experience as a band director. One of my biggest regrets was rushing to get my doctorate and leaving what was already a pretty good foundation in a place that I loved to live. The lesson learned here was to always consider leaving an apartment/house carefully, because you might actually already be home. But again, I was 23 at this point, naive and very ambitious.

My next living space was actually the empty apartment of my friend in Phoenix, because she had moved back to Ohio but her lease wasn’t up until the end of July. My lease was up in mid-June, so I got an air mattress and a litter box for my THREE (yes three at this point) cats and set up shop in her totally empty apartment to bridge the gap between my apartment and moving to Indiana. I didn’t stay here as long as I had planned because it was terrible and boring so I turned in her keys for her and headed east.

I had originally planned to stay at an Extended Stay for a bit until I could find an apartment in the college town (learning from lesson of renting sight unseen) but I had an acquaintance/regretful fling that I knew so my three cats and I stayed with him for about a week until I found a place.

Now the lesson I learned at ‘shitty apartment on the east side of town’ was to never rent at a place where people have to walk past your apartment to get down stairs. This is kind of like requesting a hotel room away from the elevator. The apartment was set up like a shitty motel, and so to get to the second floor you would walk up a set of stairs and then down a walkway/balcony to get to your door. My two bedroom, one bath apartment with the literal oldest appliances ever (but a huge built in bookshelf!) was situated as the first door of two on the second floor landing. So my neighbors loved to look into my apartment as they came home, and their kids treated the entire walkway as their playground, including right in front of my door. It was an okay situation for what it was (again, it seemed as though every time I moved I was broke and desperate) but overall it was loud, intrusive, and frustrating.

Up until this point I had always lived alone. I had never had a roommate aside from the brief first semester of college when I was forced into a double room with a girl who ended up living with someone else like two months in, leaving me alone in a double room that I eventually traded in for a single room in my second semester. Most of the lessons I learned from renting on my own were very basic: see before you buy, get a real bathroom, washer/dryer is important, being in a safe area (if affordable) is important, check out arrangement of units for how residents are forced to intermingle.

Next time we’ll move into the cohabitation portion of my history, and I will outline the lessons I learned as a result of having my first (and only) roommate of all time – the husband – and also how we navigated finding places to live together.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Expected publication July 10, 2018

Copy provided by publisher in advance in exchange for an honest review.

This book was genuinely confusing to me. One second it was making me feel one way, and the next another, to the point that I wasn’t sure if I loved it or if I hated it. I think that this is the beauty of this book as it lands in the midst of our socio-economically imbalanced society. You can resent the fact that this woman has the freedom to explore sleep as a valid therapy option while still feeling sympathy for what is obviously a very deep depression that she is struggling with after the deaths of her parents.

She decides to hibernate for a year in an attempt to reset her brain and have a new, emotional approach to her reality. She finds a “therapist” (finger quotes intended) in the yellow pages who is 100% a quack and is willing to help her jump through the insurance hoops to prescribe her every combination of sleep drugs under the sun. The first six months are full of adjustment to the medications – sleep-walking, sleep-talking, sleep-shopping – and she tries to put the pieces together after her blackout events while dealing with an abusive ex, a flighty “best friend,” and managing the resources that her parents have left to her.

About halfway through her year she realizes that she can’t be fully rested and restored if she hangs onto anything from her old life. She partners with an artist she was connected with in her old job and apparently connected with during a sleepwalking episode, to cleanse her space, lock her in, and let the true transformation begin.

This entire concept was so dangerous. The combinations of medications she is allowed to take by a person that so obviously does not have her best interests at heart as a member of the therapy profession. Her only close friend, Reva, is so selfish and self-deprecating herself that you wonder if she is able to keep an eye out for our unnamed narrator. The amount of money that she (the narrator) seems to have at her disposal is constantly the deus ex machina that allows her to continue forward.

As I was reading I did branch out to read some reviews to see how others reacted to this novel. Some said it was an interesting theory that the brain could be reset through extended hibernation and how it might be used in a safer environment with proper nutrition and monitored vitals. Others asked why we should feel bad for someone so rich that their problems are solved by drugs and money. One reviewer said that we should feel compassion for the rich, because so often the riches that we envy them for are the very things that prevent them from learning to struggle and survive, so they lack a very important set of skills that other members of society are forced to curate over time.

I agree with all these takes, although I do not feel as much empathy towards the wealthy as some reviewers seemed ready to have. What was so compelling to me about this book was the familiarity of the depression and the need to sleep. I love sleeping and being alone. I was able to ignore this woman’s wealth enough to live vicariously through her hibernation, especially the times when it really worked for her.

This seems as though it would be a very divisive book, one that would make for a good book group read. How do we give credence to all cases of mental illness while still understanding the real privilege at play in this tale? How can we be empathetic and disdainful at the same time? I love that this book presented me with this challenge. You should let it present it to you as well. Go get you some.

Familiarity

The husband loves watching TV. Every time I turn around he’s eight episodes deep into some new show that either he found himself or his friends suggested to him. He’ll try anything and if he loves it he’ll watch it right through to the end. He has his favorites for sure, but he has a thirst for the new. He is tireless in his efforts to include me in his enjoyment of a multitude of tv shows and movies. It is a chance for us to share an experience and talking about what we’re watching helps him feel like we are close, like we are together.

As the gift is offered, it is desired to be returned. Over the past week or so the husband has been asking me what I would like to watch. He wants me to suggest something new, something we can explore and discover together. I think he sees me absorbed in books, a pastime he does not particularly enjoy or share with me, and wants to have something in common. Given that I do enjoy movies and tv, it seems a reasonable place for him to start. And so I tried to think of something I wanted to watch.

The trouble I encountered was with the word new. I have a long list of things I would like to watch, but they are favorites, old friends watched over and over again, familiar to my eyes and ears. If you ask me what I want to watch, I’ll pull up The Office, Bob’s Burgers, or maybe something like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver or The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (I like my tough issues presented to me with comedy). My movies include Lord of the Rings and the unnecessarily stretched out Hobbit trilogy, Harry Potter, any Marvel movie (except Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: Civil War), and Pacific Rim if I can find it.

Any of these choices would be easy to pick and put on, but the husband wanted new. The fact that I didn’t want to watch anything he suggested, or that he had to watch certain things alone, had made him feel lonely and disconnected. He wanted me to participate. He wanted me to give him some indication of what I wanted to watch, since so many of his shows had been rejected, and in a way he himself had also been rejected. Psychologically me not wanting to watch his shows translated to me not wanting to be with him.

I heard him. Instead of digging in my heels I tried. I opened Netflix and clicked around, looking at the tv series and movies available there. It was like looking at a bunch of blank pages. They all looked the same to me. Nothing stood out. I clicked past Glow and Orange is the New Black and a dozen other famous Netflix series that are on all the “best of” lists. All these shows were like the opposite polarity of a magnet, close but still pushing my magnet away. We suffered through one episode of “Nailed It,” a show about people who are already not-so-good bakers trying to do a Pinterest copy of some professional bake to win $10,000, but that was the best I could do on my own.

So because I value communication and support in my relationships, I reflected on why this might be an impossible task for me in this moment. I have many shows that I know I like or liked in the past. Shows like Justified or the Sherlock Holmes BBC seasons were shows I ate up and started new. Why did none of these critically acclaimed shows draw me in?

In the past twelve months I lot has happened to me. The trauma and end to my job last June. The return to a job I am good at but is very stressful for me. I ended my relationship with my parents after surviving a hurricane while I was surviving the poverty brought on by the loss of the aforementioned job. My new job was full of people who liked nothing more than to make me feel like I wasn’t wanted, ignoring and isolating me with their behavior, all of that culminating in a schedule for the following year that would make my life even more stressful during the workday. I was able to get a new job, one that I am excited about, but it requires me to learn three new courses – their content and the pedagogy – that I have not taught before or learned for myself in a very long time. In addition to personal matters, the world is on fire and my efforts to stay informed and active only stress my mind with worries and anxieties about the future. If I truly assess the last year overall, psychologically it has not been a good time. I would go see my therapist but she isn’t part of the Florida Blue (BCBS) network anymore and way too expensive for me to afford on my own so I guess I have to find a new therapist too.

Watching The Office or Harry Potter over and over is like having a small stone in my pocket that I have worn smooth by rubbing it between my fingers. If I don’t have to look at the screen to know what is happening, if I can recite the words that Dwight says in an episode, or the usual good quotes from LOTR, even better. The flashy colors and battles of the Avengers calm me. They are all lucky pennies or soft rabbits’ feet. Talismen I can carry with me as comfort in…well…whatever times these are.

I may not have the capacity to welcome the new into my heart right now. I might not have the patience or the room for disappointment if something I pick turns out to be a dud. Perhaps I’m avoiding the possibility that a new show or movie might move my emotions too far and make them more difficult to manage. This all sounds a little over dramatic, but it also feels true.

We had already started the Amazon series Sneaky Pete, so we compromised and started the second season of this show that I was already familiar with. I didn’t even really want or care to do that, but now that we have started I am enjoying it. We talk about what happens and what we think will happen, and this pleases the husband. I hope he understands that more than the familiar may not be of much interest to me for a while, but I will let him know when I see something new I want to try. I hope I can find good ways to communicate this to him so that he can respect what I want while still feeling loved/cared for by and connected to me. That’s the goal.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to return my attention to The Fellowship of the Ring. Aragorn is being real angsty about his destiny and Bilbo is giving Sting to Frodo and making the angry face over the Ring. It was a stressful Sunday and I’m off to relax before the week ahead.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

Inconvenient Convenience

There are a lot of errands that a teacher must get done over the summer. Doctor’s appointments, car maintenance, pet vet visits, if it requires being someplace in person between the hours of 7am and 5pm it’s most convenient to get it done in the free summer months. Most of the things that I do in the summer have six month life spans, in that the next time I have to do this thing again it’ll be the two week winter break and I’ll have the time again. Sure I could take days off during the school year to do these things, and in emergencies I do, but I like to save those days for actual medical things or mental health recoup.

We have two dogs and two cats, all four of which are on the Banfield Vet Hospital Wellness Plans. For those of you who are unfamiliar with plans such as these, they operate as kind of a prepaid plan, not insurance. We pay about $20-30 a month for each pet, and in return we get all office visits free, routine vaccinations free, two comprehensive exams per year free (these include fecal exams, blood work, and a more in-depth checkup than a typical office visit), and in our current plans, free dental cleanings.

The dental cleanings only take a short amount of time, but the animals have to be put under general anesthesia to complete the process. We have to drop them off early in the morning so they can be prepped, and pick them up later in the afternoon after the drugs have worn off. It’s a day that is basically lost to driving and care for the animals so I like to make it part of my summer/winter break routine. When we made it out of this school year at the beginning of June and had our plans ironed out I called our usual Banfield location and made two appointments, one for both dogs in one day and another for both cats to go in one day.

Thursday afternoon I was dicking around on the internet and decided to check my email. I have a few gmail accounts and one yahoo account. The Yahoo account is the one that most of my auto-pay kinds of things go to, so imagine my surprise when I opened up the inbox and found two cancellation notifications, one for Daisy and one for Rosie, that said they were sorry we couldn’t make the appointment, but did we want to reschedule?

Banfield is a vet hospital that is usually found on the inside of PetSmart stores. It’s totally corporate and isn’t always the most reliable when it comes to scheduling. Lately, they have seemed to be understaffed, and the strain of that has started to show in their customer service. When Rosie had terrible diarrhea and vomiting at the end of May, I called to see if we could get her in as an emergency and they said they would have to turn me away because they were too busy. The fuck you mean? We got in at a different location, but they are our regular vet so wtf.

The appointments were cancelled somehow and I received no phone calls asking to to move the appointment, so I called to find out what was going on. The first time I called, it went to an answering machine message, and then to a busy signal. The second time I called, it was only a busy signal. The third time I called it rang through and a person picked up. I explained that I had received the cancellation emails but that I had not cancelled the appointments.

“Well, when we call, if you don’t pick up to confirm the appointment, we cancel it.”

No one called me.

“It looks like Rosie’s records were transferred to the Tampa location in May, maybe they called?”

The appointment was made over the phone at this location, I confirmed it in person when I brought Daisy in two weeks ago, and again, nobody called to confirm anything.

“Well, we’re all full up on surgeries through August so let me see when I can get you in next.”

No ma’am, the appointments were just cancelled twenty minutes ago, there’s no way you scheduled two surgeries on that exact day in that time, just put us back in.

“Well, we’re short on doctors and we’re full that day, let me see what I can do.”

She put me on hold, and then another person came on asking me what I needed, and finally I got the other lady back who said they had put us back on the schedule. Just in case, I asked her to confirm the cat’s appointment for the 27th, and she said yes, it was on the schedule. So fingers crossed that I’ll get all their stuff done before going back to school in the first week of August. Chances are that they were supposed to call me to ask me to reschedule due to the lack of doctors but cancelled without calling, but they weren’t about to admit that.

My biggest problem with how a lot of businesses deal with me is their inability to make up for when they make a mistake. We had several issues this week that seemed to all add up quickly – a doctor called in the wrong prescription so we had to call back and forth between the doctor and the pharmacy to fix it, the school district didn’t fill out a loan forgiveness program document correctly so we had to call around to fix it, the login for the husband’s AP scores wouldn’t work and when he called they said it was a server issue, then the pet appointment random email cancellation – and all stemmed from someone’s inability to do their job correctly.

If companies were more flexible or willing to fix the problem, I wouldn’t be so upset. But so often any “fix” that’s offered inconveniences me because they know that they have me over a barrel and I have to accept their arrangement. To avoid anything from issues with technology to human error, I find that it is necessary to call 2-3 times ahead of time for things, especially appointments, to confirm that what I think is going to happen is happening. I can’t rely on anyone to keep their word or do their job, and from what I’m experiencing it is only getting worse.

I think that my response to this is going to be to establish more of our activities with locally based vendors. There is a nice vet up the street that also does boarding in non-cage-type rooms and offers plans similar to Banfield’s Wellness plans. Our only hesitation is the difference in hours – Banfield is open every day of the week, this new vet is closed Sundays and only open until 6pm each evening instead of 7pm – but I think that would be something we could work with.

In this era of late-stage capitalism I find myself bending away from larger companies in favor of someone who actually needs and values my business. I have such limited resources (time and money) that I want to give them to people who appreciate that I have chosen to spend them at their business. As the pets’ plans expire with Banfield, I will probably move them up to this new vet under new plans. Another area I could go more local in would be ordering my books from local independent stores (I am guilty of getting most of mine from Amazon).

I would be interested to hear your stories in a similar vein. Have you experienced similar situations? Also, how do you shop local? Do you find that you get better value and treatment? What about quality? I would love to hear about different ways we can shop more locally and support our community. See you in the comments, or feel free to comment on Facebook or Twitter. Have a great weekend!

Nothing Good Can Come From This

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Due for publication August 7, 2018

This book was provided to me by the publisher in advance of publication in return for an honest review.

I am not the biggest fan of memoir, specifically the kind of memoir that seems to trod out the idea that we are in a suffering Olympics. That someone’s story isn’t worth reading unless they have enough trauma and hurt in their lives to kill a bull elephant. Those kinds of memoir just weren’t for me.

So when this ARC came across my desk I decided to read it immediately to get it out of the way. It was only 220 pages and wouldn’t take me very long. Once I started, however, I ended up not wanting it to stop. Kristi Coulter has written a memoir about addiction and freedom that will make you feel free and empowered no matter what your personal struggles might be.

She describes the slow slip into alcoholism as one glass of wine a night turns into two, and then three. We watch her as she attempts to live a normal life in a high powered job in the midst of a society that seems to drink to relax, celebrate, cope, socialize, really you name it and booze is there to hold your hand. The beauty in this book is seeing Coulter come to recognize that she is an alcoholic, make the decision to become sober, and then navigate the road to rediscovering who she is without alcohol.

It is that rediscovering that spoke to me the most. Her questions seemed to always start with “What would I like to…” as she discovered what she enjoyed and who she wanted to be now that she was sober. The constructive struggle mixed with the hope and freedom that these kinds of choices bring makes this a memoir that sees past the struggle to a bright, limitless future full of possibility. Maybe the closest comparable would be breaking up with a long-time partner. Who am I without this person? It’s a bigger discovery than some people realize.

What would I like to eat now that I don’t drink? Will food taste different? Will I be able to taste new things out of the haze? All these questions are so interesting and wonderful that I would have read an entire book of her talking to me about the things she discovered about herself while sober. It was like she had emerged from the cocoon and stumbled around for a bit before realizing she had wings. “What do these do?” she mused, and then she took flight.

I love that her husband quit drinking with her. That is love and support. He may not have been an alcoholic but she describes him as different and a bit angry when he drank, so that decision was probably good for them both.

She changed her goals and team at work too. Once she wasn’t drinking she discovered that the project and team she was working with was too fast-paced and, as she described it: “this isn’t me.” Not only was she discovering how things she wanted to keep around were, she gained the clarity to be able to determine those things that had to go. The aspects of her reality that just weren’t tenable anymore.

The luxury of space to breathe and the freedom to make choices concerning your own reality and well-being are front and center in Coulter’s journey, and while that is couched in the struggle of alcoholism, her tale is only ever reaching forward, only looking back in an effort to fuel progress. The only thing you can do is cheer her on, because you will be so proud of her perseverance.

I have placed this book on my Christmas list. I plan to place it alongside Megan Stielstra’s The Wrong Way to Save Your Life and Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting In Real Life on my shelf. Very slowly I am making a small library of stories that make me feel inspired and, more importantly, less alone. No matter your struggles, Coulter’s journey will inspire you to ask about what you like in your own life so that you can surround yourself with joy and not miss out on a single experience. Go get you some.

THIS WORLD IS ON FIIIYAAA

The world is somehow more on fire than it was a month ago which is terrifying, but impressive, so to throw some water on the flames I wanted to share some good things that have been going on here at Casa Angry.

First, I’ve been going to the gym on a fairly regular basis. I started while the husband was away for a week, and for the past four weeks I’ve been hitting it on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. My resting heart rate has come down from a lofty 80bpm to what seems like a more reasonable 66bpm (even though the internet assures me that anything between 60 and 100bpm is “normal”), I’m sleeping better, and I WILL GET MICHELLE OBAMA’S ARMS. My depression stays at bay better when I have a clear routine and clear expectations, so this was a welcome and helpful addition to my week.

Second, to go along with the gym thing, I’ve been eating way better. More fruits and veggies along with two cups of milk per day and 8-8oz glasses of water are all probably contributing to me feeling better too. I’m doing this to help with my depression as well as for my health. I am losing a little weight but if that’s what my body wants to do naturally then that’s okay. It’s not my overall goal. Mostly I want to discourage diabetes, heart disease, and this fucking depression.

Third: I AM WRITING A BOOK DID YOU HEAR??? As of this very evening I have a crisp 23,742 words in Google Docs which amounts to 47 pages and if I’m being super honest I don’t know if that’s good or bad for almost 30 days of work but I’m doing it. The best I can find online is that I should aim for like 60,000 to 100,000 words, with that upper end amounting to a 400ish page book. I figure I’ll write until the story is done, then as I edit I can cut or add as I see the need and the word count will fall where it will.

Fourth: I transferred to a different school in my district after I was offered the job this past Monday. The school I was at this past year was not the best fit in a lot of different ways, so while I will miss the kids I really loved there I am looking forward to taking on this new challenge. I will be responsible for Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus, International Baccalaureate (IB) maths (junior and senior levels), and one weird section of Algebra 1. I practically begged my old school to give me harder classes to teach, but the cards didn’t fall that way. I am thankful for this new opportunity and I hope I can rise to the challenge (duh, I will, I’M A FUCKING BOSS).

Lastly I am really excited about our finances. It might be tacky to mention this, but every. single. summer. before this one was an absolutely terrible and bumpy ride on the struggle bus and we often ran out of money in mid-July for one reason or another. This summer we’re going to make it all the way to when we start getting paid again without having to max out the credit cards or make a $5 Little Caesar’s pizza last for an entire week of dinners. One year it was so bad that during teacher planning week they said they had an extra two catered trays of ziti the teachers didn’t eat AND I CLAIMED THEM BOTH and brought them home and that’s what we had for lunch and dinner for like two weeks until we started getting paid again. Teachers don’t get paid until the last day of their third week back (one week of prep, two weeks with students) and honestly that’s ridiculous but this year we shouldn’t have to worry.

Last summer around this time I was frantically searching for a teaching job after “leaving” my online teaching gig. This year I took a job I wanted because I chose to go out and look for a new one and we have enough saved to be safe through the barren summer months. Security and safety are so amazing. They offer freedom an choice and room to breathe and think. Now granted, we’ll need that first paycheck right away, but there won’t be a gap and … I don’t know guys it just makes me want to cry and sob with relief.

I’m surrounded with books to read, I have words to write, there are puppers to snuggle and kitties to pet. There is enough money for food and shelter and a movie or two. These are some but not all of the lights for me right now in this very dark place, and I want to thank all of you that read and follow this blog for bringing light too. I means so much to me that my words are words you want to read. Thanks for being here. Stay strong.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

 

A Double Life

A Double LIfe

Expected publication: July 31, 2018

A Double Life was provided to me by the publisher in return for an honest review. 

This book is set in London. A member of the House of Lords (Parliament) has committed murder and has gone on the run to avoid prosecution. He had intended to kill his wife, but instead killed the nanny and only injured his wife before fleeing the country. The book alternates between the past and the present, showing us what happened but also showing us how his children are doing now. We see the story mainly through the eyes of his daughter Lydia, who has been searching for him since she was a little girl.

Have you ever looked up someone you used to know, or someone you used to date, online? If you have you know that little burst of adrenaline, that sense that you are able to see something you maybe shouldn’t be looking at, and the freedom to observe someone you might have mixed feelings about from afar. It’s simply a part of being a part of social media. Now imagine you could condense and bottle that feeling an then turn it into a book.

That would become this book.

It’s really an exploration of how people can come back and heal from trauma, especially trauma that seems to have been visited on us by those we are supposed to trust the most in the world. Mixed in is the idea that in this age of the internet nothing can ever really be forgotten, moving on from anything is very difficult with constant reminders just a click away, and letting go of the need to know why is hard when you can find just about anyone on the internet.

I’m hesitant to recommend this book. It was very evenly paced, but could be triggering for individuals who have social media addictions or family trauma in their past. The ending also seemed kind of convenient, almost like the book was due so *poof!* everyone gets what they need with just a little scuffle. It also shouldn’t be ignored that doing your own detective work or searching for people in real life is very dangerous, especially if the people you are looking for are violent or abusive.  There are a lot of unhealthy behaviors running amok in these pages.

It does have what I enjoy in a book, and that’s realistic human behavior. Lydia/Claire did exactly what I thought she would do given the circumstances. It wasn’t what I would have chosen to do, but her actions made sense for the most part (the ending notwithstanding).

It was an interesting read and it asks some compelling questions. I don’t think it’s a book I would have chosen to read and I’m not completely enamored with it, but I’m not going to discourage you from reading it either. Give it a try and let me know what you think.