Review: The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy

Review: The Possessions by Sara Flannery MurphyThe Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy
Published by Harper Collins February 7, 2017
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Copy for Honest Review
Amazon US
Goodreads

In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances

In an unnamed city, Eurydice works for the Elysian Society, a private service that allows grieving clients to reconnect with lost loved ones. She and her fellow workers, known as “bodies“, wear the discarded belongings of the dead and swallow pills called lotuses to summon their spirits—numbing their own minds and losing themselves in the process. Edie has been a body at the Elysian Society for five years, an unusual record. Her success is the result of careful detachment: she seeks refuge in the lotuses’ anesthetic effects and distances herself from making personal connections with her clients.

But when Edie channels Sylvia, the dead wife of recent widower Patrick Braddock, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous couple. Despite the murky circumstances surrounding Sylvia’s drowning, Edie breaks her own rules and pursues Patrick, moving deeper into his life and summoning Sylvia outside the Elysian Society’s walls.

After years of hiding beneath the lotuses’ dulling effect, Edie discovers that the lines between her own desires and those of Sylvia have begun to blur, and takes increasing risks to keep Patrick within her grasp. Suddenly, she finds her quiet life unraveling as she grapples not only with Sylvia’s growing influence and the questions surrounding her death, but with her own long-buried secrets.

A tale of desire and obsession, deceit and dark secrets that defies easy categorization, The Possessions is a seductive, absorbing page-turner that builds to a shattering, unforgettable conclusion.

After I finished reading The Possessions, I had to use my Phone a Friend to discuss the genre labeling. I’ve seen some call it a romantic thriller, but I wouldn’t call it that. I’ve seen some call it a fantasy, it is in a sense, but that didn’t seem quite fitting either. We settled on psychological thriller. It’s absolutely got the psychological part down, the thriller part is there but slightly more understated.

In fact, so much of this book is written in an understated way. More on that in a minute, first let’s get to the housekeeping bit.

Edie spends her days as other people. She channels them for money, with the help of a little white pill. She never remembers the experiences, it’s as if she falls asleep for awhile as a deceased spirit takes over her body. Then she wakes as herself again. Herself, however, isn’t much of a person. She rarely socializes with others, she has more possessions belonging to dead people than she has of her own. She moves through her day always waiting to escape herself and become someone else. Someone dead.

She looks at me as if I’m the invading spirit in her child’s body.

Edie is very good at moving through her life in a systematic and cold way. She has to be in order to avoid a past she won’t discuss and does not want to remember. Patrick, a new client, makes that all the more difficult. He’s hired her to channel his wife who’s death is surrounded by questions. Edie immediately feels a connection, but that connection is more with Sylvia, the dead wife, than with Patrick – the man she believes she’s falling in love with.

The Possessions introduces an interesting and thought provoking plot. If you could, would you want to contact a deceased love one? To what end or purpose? Is it healing or does it draw out the process of grief? All of these things are touched on in this tale. But one other thing is, as well. If a spirit could inhabit your body for a short period of time, could they do it for longer? Would they ever want to leave it?

For a crooked second, Sylvia is in the room with me. A drowned specter, white skin peeling away like fruit rind, eyelids eaten into filigree by the fish.

For Edie and Sylvia, that’s the key question, as Sylvia becomes more and more a part of Edie and Edie is all too willing to let her stay. To be her. The more time she spends as Sylvia, with Patrick, the more she digs in to Sylvia’s life…and her death. A search that eventually uncovers everyone’s secrets, including her own. 

Back to that understated part. Murphy wrote this book with a slow pace that still keeps you excited enough to turn the page. It’s written with a creepiness that’s indirect, I guess would be the word for it. It’s not blatant on the page. You feel like you are reading normal, every day thoughts of a lonely and quiet woman, until she thinks of wanting to slide her fingernail under skin and peel it all away. Then it’s right back to a sense of quiet normalcy.

It’s a strange read, very different than anything I’ve read in quite a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did wish the end had been a bit stronger, but it felt genuine to Edie’s character, so I won’t give it too much flack. It’s a solid start to Murphy’s career and I’ll be watching for more from her. 

 


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Review: The Distance From A to Z by Natalie BlittThe Distance From A to Z by Natalie Blitt
Published by Harper Collins January 12, 2016
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Copy for Honest Review
Amazon US
Goodreads

This full-length novel by debut author Natalie Blitt is a pitch-perfect blend of Stephanie Perkins and Miranda Kenneally that proves the age-old adage: opposites attract.

Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk.

Every so often I need to throw in a light, young adult read. A pallet cleanser, if you will.   A read to balance you out when you’re in an adult romance reading rut.  The Distance From A to Z served it’s purpose well.

Abby grew up in the baseball life.  Her family being huge Cubs fans, to the point of cancelling big life moments if there was a game on.  As Abby aged, she realized she didn’t want her life to be only baseball.  She wanted something else, something hers.  She started teaching herself French with the idea of applying to a Paris school for her Senior year of highschool.  This leads her to attending a Summer Instensive French study at a college and meeting Zeke. 

Zeke seems like a typical jock. Exactly what Abby doesn’t want in her life anymore.  However, his interest and knowledge of the French language has her intrigued.  Forced to be partners, Abby and Zeke form a connection. In French. 

When they venture outside of language studies though, the relationship isn’t quite the same.  Zeke is a different person in English. He’s secretive and stand offish.  Abby is also more defensive and guarded.  

I can see how some readers may not like Abby too much.  She was difficult at times.  She’s quite bitter and overly determined to distance herself from her families obsessions.  But, keeping in mind that she is only seventeen and trying to find herself, I gave her a pass. Mostly.

The Distance From A to Z was a cute idea.  At first, I didn’t really love how Abby’s mind threw in random French words.  However, as the story progressed and it took on more of two worlds/ two relationships – I actually began to enjoy it.  It was a first love, coming of age story…in French.

Overall, it was sweat story with just the right amount of cute to wash away all the heaviness of my regular reads.

 

 


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