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Book Talk: Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser


Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
Publisher: St. Martin’s (March 27, 2018)
Genre(s): Adult fiction, domestic drama
Interest: Read an excerpt on a blog
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Amazon          GoodReads

Book Talk formatting inspired by Jamie over at The Perpetual Page-Turner.


When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce―and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her―and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions―especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors―and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.

Initial Reaction

I first read an excerpt of this book on Vilma Iris’s blog, and I immediately requested a hold on it from the library. It took longer than it normally does to get this book from my holds list, so I was excited when it was finally ready. Until I read the reviews on Goodreads… Let’s just say they aren’t super great. As of writing this, the book only has an overall rating of a 3.56, which is usually enough for me to return a book unread. For some reason though, I kept this book on my nightstand, and I picked it up the other night when I couldn’t sleep. And I devoured it. About 100 pages into the book, I couldn’t figure out why the rating was so low, so I decided to peek at the non-spoiler reviews: most people were upset that the book was predictable. That’s weird, I thought to myself. It’s not a thriller or a whodunit novel. And it’s really not. It’s what I would call a domestic drama… a dramatic tale of domesticity and neighborly goings-on. It is predictable, but I don’t find issue in that detracting from a good story. It’s a character-driven novel, and the characters do not disappoint. This story is told from the point of view of three characters: Izzy, Clara, and Kristin.

Izzy is probably my favorite character, and the character I felt most sorry for. She’s young, single, and focused on her career, but she’s also trying to get over a guy she lost (to her sister, nonetheless) because she never could admit her feelings for him. She tries to see the good in everyone, even while wallowing in her own self-pity, and I think that makes her endearing if a bit naive. As I read her chapters, I found myself both rooting for her and freaking out for her. You know she is making some pretty awful choices, and you just want her to start making better ones.

Clara’s husband, Benny, might have been one of my favorite novel husbands I’ve read in quite a while. Clara is the epitome of a good housewife and mother, and she has a really great husband who is supportive and humorous. He’s the perfect balance to her, and I enjoyed reading about them and their past. Clara also tries to make the best decisions and justifies her actions, which totally make sense, even though some of them come back to bite her in the you-know-what. Hallie, a neighbor’s daughter, drove me a bit crazy, but in the end, I was glad she was around to involve Clara in her little escapades as a wannabe journalist.

Kristin is the missing soon-to-be-ex-wife of a doctor. There are some chapters with snippets about why she has gone missing, but again, this isn’t a book where you’re focused on figuring out why Kristin is missing. You should be able to figure that out really early on in your reading. I found myself admiring and rooting for her throughout the entirety of the book.

There are several other neighbors, lesbian couple Rhoda and Randi who own a boutique and have a new baby, and Hallie’s mom, Natalie, whose husband is deployed overseas, who make up the group who last saw Kristin the night before she went missing. All of these characters add dimension and a bit of drama to the story.

I found myself curious about exactly what happened as I read, even though I already had the general gist of what happened early on in reading. I found the characters endearing (well, for the most part), and I wanted all of the women to be successful in finding who they really were and what they really wanted out of life. I found myself not wanting the book to end when it was getting close to resolution.

Really Liked It
Rating Factors

characters, romance, page-turner, real-world issues, syntax, resolution
− predictable

  • Adults or older teens who loved Big Little Lies or are fans of Liane Moriarty
  • Adults or older teens who love a character-driven story
  • Adults or older teens who don’t mind a predictable, yet dramatic story
Final Thoughts

That unexpected twist at the resolution… totally made the book for me. I’m really glad I ignored the Goodreads ratings and reviews and picked this up for myself.

Not That I Could Tell Quote
Book Jacket Review

Character-driven domestic drama that will keep you reading well into the night. Thoughtful, thought-provoking, and totally relevant.

Talking Points
  • Have you read it? Was your reaction similar to or different than mine? What were your thoughts about the characters?
  • If you haven’t read it, does it sound like a book you’d be interested in reading? Why or why not?
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Not That I Could Tell Pinterest

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