Book Review: The Elizas by Sara Shepard

April 18, 2018 Book Reviews 4

Book Review: The Elizas by Sara Shepard

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Elizas by Sara Shepard
Genres: Psychological Thriller
Published by Atria on April 17, 2018
Pages: 352
Format: eARC

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Also by this author: The Amateurs

A standalone psychological thriller of a story and revolving around the primary Eliza and her paranoia. But then, you know what they say, are you really paranoid if it’s true?

My Take

This is a horrible story. Horrible and yet good. I’d give it a “5”, except I hate the protagonist. And that isn’t really fair. But I gotta say I struggled through the first 60-some percent of the story, as Eliza was so offputting. I wanted to strangle her myself.

AND, I’m glad I persisted, if only to discover the truth. I suspected a part of it. It was too obvious not to. But that sudden flip at the end…hoo-boy. Actually I should say the several flips. It’s hard to say who I felt was the more guilty by then.

Shepard did an excellent job of conveying Eliza’s fears and paranoia. I was feeling it and jumping at every sound, twitching at every shadow. Unfortunately, Eliza’s personality only made me want to off the bitch. I cheered on the drowning (Shepard certainly conveyed her bliss at drowning), if only to put me out of my misery, let alone her family’s. Of course, Eliza did everything she could to sabotage herself.

My god, she was a self-centered, snotty, little sociopath! Psychopath?? Hard to tell, as she appeared to be this way from childhood — strangling Barbies, hanging teddy bears with mini suicide notes… Everything revolved around her. The nasty stuff she pulled on her stepsister when they were children! The way she treated people, wanting to hurt them to cover up her own sense of shame. What? She’s never heard of automatic bill pay? That obsession she had with death! It makes me wonder if her family did as they do more for their own welfare than for hers. I’m sure they felt more empathy for her than I did, even if they were so incredibly cruel.

”But sometimes lying’s my natural response.”

”I needed her to fear me.”

”I make a list of people who might hate me … people from the writing group … whose fiction I critiqued the teensiest bit too harshly …”

”People without style have always fascinated me. Is it that they don’t care?” … Could she not have gotten cuter glasses?”

The ultimate reveal of that shadow haunting Eliza’s every step was satisfying, BUT I didn’t buy the reality of it. And I can’t say more without spoiling it.

Getting into the technical aspect, Shepard uses present tense with a first person protagonist point-of-view from Eliza’s perspective. It’s ideal as it is all about Eliza and her thoughts with a good bit of foreshadowing.

The Story

When debut novelist Eliza Fontaine is found at the bottom of a hotel pool, her family at first assumes that it’s just another failed suicide attempt. But Eliza swears she was pushed, and her rescuer is the only witness.

Desperate to find out who attacked her, Eliza takes it upon herself to investigate. But as the publication date for her novel draws closer, Eliza finds more questions than answers. Like why are her editor, agent, and family mixing up events from her novel with events from her life? Her novel is completely fictional — isn’t it?

The deeper Eliza goes into her investigation while struggling with memory loss, the closer her life starts to resemble her novel, until the line between reality and fiction starts to blur and she can no longer tell where her protagonist’s life ends and hers begins…

The Characters

Twenty-three-year-old Eliza Fontaine has written a book, The Dots, that has terrific promise. Gabby is her meek stepsister, who works at That’s A Wrap; she’s dating her boss, Dave, whose son, Linus, has leukemia. Bill is her caring stepfather with a love for Civil War history. Mom is Francesca and works for a podiatrist. Beauty is the horse who lives down the way. Eleanor Reitman is Mom’s sister; supposedly the sisters came from a wealthy banker family, but Mom spurned the family money. Why, I don’t know.

Kiki Ross and Steadman, her brother who runs the creepy curiosities shop in Venice where Eliza works, are Eliza’s roommates. Herb is another of his employees. Kiki is obsessed with cats and had a Maine Coon named Buster. Theo will become a boyfriend. Leonidas Lorre is Eliza’s ex-boyfriend and works in his father’s plastic surgery office.

The dramatic Desmond Wells is quite the character; he even plays one at the Circus Maximus in Sunnyvale. He’s also obsessed with comic-cons and is second-in-command of marketing for the Los Angeles Comic-Con. Paul is a friend. Stefan is his weird dabbler of a brother.

Laura is Eliza’s New York agent. Posey is Eliza’s very pregnant editor. Dr Roxanne has a very popular talk show. Crew behind the scenes of the show include Sal who is the limo driver, Roz Lowry, and Cathy who is a hairstylist.

Lance Collier is a forensics psychologist with the Palm Springs PD. Officer O’Hara is one of the responders in the alley incident. Detective Carson takes her confession.

Evan Richards is Dr Richards’ devoted husband. Dr Forney was the neurologist who operated on Eliza’s brain tumor. Herman Lavinsky is a spiritual healer and neuroscientist. Dr Sweitzer, a psychiatrist, is supposed to do a follow-up. Dr Geist is a radiologist on staff at a clinic. Bridgewater is a psychiatric hospital in Menlo park. Crystal, Jim, and Pablo are some patients at the Oaks where Albert is a therapist.

Mariel had been a college classmate. Sasha led a writers group which is where Eliza met Kiki. Diana Dane and Gigi Reese were two actresses back in the 1960s. Richie and Sam are bartenders at the Shipstead bar at the Tranquility Hotel. Darrell is a manager. Brian is the grumpy bartender at the whorehouse bar where Eliza meets up with Andrew Cousins-Glouster. An Albert came to the funeral.

In The Dots, there is…
…the younger Dot’s mother who is a dental assistant and the manipulative Dorothy Ophelia Banks, the wealthy sister to Eliza’s mother. (Phillis is Dot’s code name for her.) She’s adventurous, magical, was married to fabulous and wealthy men, is/was the toast of society, and so much more. Thomas is her son who died. She wrote Riders of Carrowae. I suspect the Magnolia Hotel where Dorothy lives is a stand-in for the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Dot is her niece, totally enthralled with her marvelous aunt. Ko is the M&F Chop House pet dog along with Tristan, the bat who has the power of reciting sonnets. Matilda is the school-age child who is Dot’s best friend with the same love for the gothic. Kyle is Matilda’s brother. Brody Fish and Darius were boys Dot made out with in high school. Marlon, Dot’s college boyfriend and a performance artist who intends to study quarks, saved her.

Bernie is a waiter at the M&F Chop House. Dr Vishal Singh is the Magnolia’s in-house doctor. Milton is one of Dorothy’s husbands. Otufu is the warlord in Somalia. Frederico was an Italian lover and part of a Sicilian mob. Hospitals include St. Mother Maria’s where Dr Koder and Stella, the nurse, once worked. Dr Osuri and Lisa, a nurse, work at the second hospital.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a dramatic and bright rainbow of colors making up Eliza’s face, colors that are being torn away, streaming from her horizontally. All the text is in white and centered, from the title at the top and the author’s name in the bottom half along with the info blurbs.

The title is a foreshadowing for all The Elizas out there.

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