“The Fall of Lisa Bellow” by Susan Perabo

One day 13-year-old Meredith runs into her arch-rival at the deli–only instead of cutting each other dead, both girls find themselves lying next to each other on the floor as the deli is robbed at gunpoint. What follows is Meredith’s attempts to make sense of what happened, and her parents’ struggles to relate to a daughter who is not only in the throes of puberty, but is also processing–or not–a traumatic event that has changed not just her perception of herself but, maybe even more significantly for a girl her age, her social standing in school.

“The Fall of Lisa Bellow” is both a suspense story and an examination of the internal pressures working on an ordinary middle-class American family with two children going through the changes of adolescence. As a suspense story it keeps the tension high, teasing the reader through Meredith’s semi-hallucinatory recollections of the robbery and kidnapping and her confused fantasies about it afterwards. It is not, however, a conventional thriller in that the ending is not wrapped up neatly, instead opting for life-like loose ends.

It is in the interactions between the characters as they negotiate their day-to-day problems, though, that the novel truly shines. All the characters are rendered in the 3D, and the point of view switches back and forth between Meredith and her mother, so that the reader is given both Meredith’s confused and resentful teenage rebellion, and her mother’s fear and frustration as she is faced with a daughter she no longer knows, and a growing sense of her own inadequacies. There are no easy answers or trite resolutions, but there is a rich and multi-faceted examination of comfortable ordinary lives as they attempt to deal with a brush with random tragedy.

My thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC of this book.

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