EVIDENCE OF LIFE by Barbara Taylor Sissel

 In BKReview, Drama, Mystery/Horror/Crime

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Author: Barbara Taylor Sissel
Rating4 out of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Recommended ReadingAGE 17+
 Contains no spoilers


NUTSHELL: Based on suspicions surrounding a tragedy, one woman fights to get answers about the possible death of her family. I loved so much about this story and yet, at times, found myself bored to tears. It deals heavily with grief and regret. mixed in with some very creepy scenes, but the problem I had was it didn’t go anywhere for much of the book. Most of  the story was bogged down by mundane and unnecessary descriptions. But all that aside, it was written beautifully and with a tremendous amount of heart, so if you are looking for a heady, deep book and you don’t mind suffering through some unnecessary narratives, pick up Evidence of Life.

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SYNOPSISOn the last ordinary day of her life, Abby Bennett feels like the luckiest woman alive. But everyone knows that luck doesn’t last forever…

As her husband, Nick, and daughter, Lindsey, embark on a weekend camping trip to the Texas Hill Country, Abby looks forward to having some quiet time to herself. She braids Lindsey’s hair, reminds Nick to drive safely and kisses them both goodbye. For a brief moment, Abby thinks she has it all—a perfect marriage, a perfect life—until a devastating storm rips through the region, and her family vanishes without a trace.

When Nick and Lindsey are presumed dead, lost in the raging waters, Abby refuses to give up hope. Consumed by grief and clinging to her belief that her family is still alive, she sets out to find them. But as disturbing clues begin to surface, Abby realizes that the truth may be far more sinister than she imagined. Soon she finds herself caught in a current of lies that threaten to unhinge her and challenge everything she once believed about her marriage and family.

With a voice that resonates with stunning clarity, Barbara Taylor Sissel delivers a taut and chilling mystery about a mother’s love, a wife’s obsession and the invisible fractures that can shatter a family.


NITTY-GRITTY: I tore through this book in one day, wanting desperately to know how the story unfolds. It draws you in and little by little provides you with tiny amounts of information that deliver the perfect mix of intrigue and hope. But…and there is a but, as much as I loved this story, it also bored me to tears. Page after page of unnecessary conversations and descriptions about things that were so inconsequential to the bigger picture that I ended up skipping several pages, searching for another tidbit in the puzzle. Look, I am not impatient and I love deep stories about redemption and personal growth as much as the next gal, but when there are entire pages devoted to doing laundry and cleaning the house, I tend to check out mentally. But that didn’t take away from the overall feel of the book, it just knocked the rating down a notch.

My other problem was the main protagonist’s sense of sense of self or lack thereof. I found her, at worst stupid and at best naïve and unlikable. She was constantly second guessing herself, which isn’t usually bad, but there was a possibility that her child might still be alive and her focus was deprecating and weak. She doesn’t stand up for what she believes in and has no real conviction, barring one altercation at her husband’s place of employment. If I was her, I would be demanding answers, getting in law enforcements face and forcing people to take notice of my suspicions, but she didn’t. She held a pity party for herself, while complaining that no one cared. After a while I didn’t want to care. I also found the peripheral characters equally displeasing, every one of them discounting any evidence brought forth (when she did happen to mention a revelation) while lying to her for “her own benefit” and making her feel crazy for having hope.

Along with the bad, there was a lot of good. The protagonist, although weak, also grows and becomes self-reflective as the book moves forward. The writing is great, even beautiful, with realistic dialogue and for all those long winded descriptions, many of them were quite vivid, lifelike. The story was deep and mysterious and I loved the way the main theme played out. The ending was satisfying and smart, while giving the reader a chance to see a fragile minded woman grow strong. I won’t say much about the ending, because you really need to experience it. I will say that I liked the family dynamic and as much as I complained about the sub characters, they were at least real and very flawed.

Yes, there are some slow moments, yes, some of the characters were poorly devised, but is it worth your time? Absolutely. I can’t promise an instant love affair with Evidence of Life, but I can promise a well written mysterious drama.

Received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Sara O'Connor
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