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Sunday Book Review – A Year in the Life of Leah Brand by Lucinda Clarke

My Sunday Book Review is for Lucinda E. Clarke’s psychological thriller – A Year in the Life of Leah Brand. Leah has certainly had her share of grief in her life, and just when she thinks life has given her a second chance at happiness, her world begins spinning out of control.

 

 

 

Blurb:

Leah’s nightmare began the day the dog died.

A few years earlier a fatal car crash took the lives of Leah’s beloved husband and their two babies, leaving her disabled. Life looked bleak. She was approaching forty, unemployed, broke and desperate.

Then she met Mason. He was charming, charismatic, persuasive, and a successful businessman, well respected in the community. His teenage daughter did nothing to welcome Leah into the family, but life is never perfect.

Then, two years into her second marriage, Leah Brand’s world is turned upside down; inanimate objects in the house move, her clothes are left out for the rubbish collection, pieces of furniture change places, there are unexplained noises and hauntings.

As the disturbances increase, everyone accuses Leah of losing her mind. Soon she begins to doubt herself and she starts to spiral down into a world of insanity. Is she going mad, or is someone out to destroy her? And if so, why?

A gripping, psychological thriller for fans of Mary Higgins Clarke and Louise Jensen.

 

My 4 Star Review:

This is certainly a different type of physcological thriller. Leah Brand is a lovely woman whose life has become a series of crazy mishaps making her life spiral out of control shortly after marrying Mason. After surviving a fatal car accident that took her first husband and two children and one of her legs, Leah’s new life becomes a nightmare.

The story begins when we’re taken into Leah’s life and marriage She’s remarried to Mason, a very unlikeable man whose ex-wife had run off and left him with a teenage terror daughter Belinda and estranged son Leo (who doesn’t show up til late in the book). We’re vaguely informed that Mason’s first wife left him. Slowly Leah becomes unraveled as things start appearing and disappearing in her house to the point where she thinks she might be going crazy. The only friend she has is next door neighbor Andrea, and throughout the book we’re left wondering if even Andrea is a real friend.

There are many unlikeable characters in this book from conniving Mason to his daughter – and plenty more, but no spoilers. There seems to be no place of safety or sanity for Leah as she spends her days trying to figure out what is going on in her life, her home, and with her hot and cold relationship with her narcissistic husband. And without insights about this awful man prior to the start of the story, I continued to struggle with why on earth this lovely woman who has been through so much grief in life – losing her family and putting up with an equally evil mother with dementia, continued to endure the unhappiness she was living.

The story is told from Leah’s perspective – first person, which I enjoy. We get to learn Leah’s thoughts and rationales for actions and surmisings. But despite not knowing why everything is going bizarro in Leah’s world, I found it a tad unbelievable that a smart woman with a head on her shoulders would endure all the shenanigans, and I felt disturbed throughout the book – sign of good writing, but reader frustration. It took the whole book of enduring Leah’s angst to wait for the explanation of the happenings, which ultimately felt a wee bit out of left field when we finally learn some of the story’s mysteries.

The ending didn’t tie up things as I anticipated, once the discoveries were let out of the bag, I assume more will be revealed in book 2 as I’m sure this book was left as a cliffhanger because some of the answers still left room for clarification, leaving me questioning why I was left still suspecting more behind the revelations, as just desserts weren’t doled out and a mysterious disappearance hadn’t fully been resolved.

Without a doubt, Clarke is a crafty writer. She planted lots of red herrings throughout the story along with two minor other characters who brought back the likeability factor – a real friend, Bill, and Aunty Dierdre. These characters offered a breath of fresh air in a story of constant craziness, while feeling sorry for Leah, yet wanting to smack her in the head with a wake-up call to get the hell out of the nuthouse she was living in and away from the people in her life who treated her so bloody poorly. I like to root for the underdog in a story, but I think Leah missed stepping up to the plate. I know not every story has likeable characters, I may just be that reader who it bothers too much.

Well written and definitely a book to keep the pages turning. The only reason for 4 stars is a personal one, not a reflection on the writer who certainly had a vision in mind for Leah’s character. But as a reader, I get flustered by women who stay with abusive men and make excuses for them.

©DGKaye2020

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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.

29 Comments

  • Pete Springer

    Thank you for the comprehensive review, Debby. It sounds like there is no shortage of villains. It is hard to understand why someone sticks with someone who abuses them physically or emotionally, but that seems to be part of the abuser’s psychological hold.

    • dgkaye

      So true Pete. And lord knows it happens way too much in this world. But as a woman who has lived that nightmare (pre-hub) it triggers me when I learn about women who just stay. No offense on the writer, that’s her story, but for some it’s triggering.

  • Jacqui Murray

    what a difficult topic. The craton of my life is my husband–always there, always on my side. What if he wasn’t? This book sounds like it explores that. A bit of an unreliable narrator, too? Sounds interesting and good review.

  • Robbie Cheadle

    A most interesting review, Debby. I enjoyed reading it. This is not a book I will read, but I can see its appeal.

  • Toni Pike

    Hi Debby, Another great review, and I enjoyed this one too – a very entertaining page-turner. I agree, it is disturbing the way Leah keeps falling into those traps but I put that down to manipulation. Thanks for sharing this. Toni x

  • Diane McGyver

    I have similar feelings: why do capable women stay in bad relationships? The only answers I can find are money and security.

    Great review. It gives the good and the not so good about the book and allows readers to make an informed decision to read or not to read.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Diane. And a review is also an opinion. As one of ‘those woman’ who’d been in of ‘those relationships’, it just struck a chord with me. 🙂

  • Lucinda E Clarke

    Thank you for such an in-depth and thoughtful review Debbie and for sharing it with your readers. I am often amazed at the number of strong women out there who say they would never put up with such and such a situation. It’s not so easy to walk away if you don’t have the money or the resources. I should know, I was trapped for years. It must be a sign that modern women won’t put up with any nonsense and now that divorce is no longer seen as a failure and a disgrace, then it’s easier for the modern woman to strike out on her own.

    • dgkaye

      Hi Lucinda. I so agree with you – I too was one of those woman. 🙂 Perhaps that’s why it triggered me. Now I’ll just have to read the next book! To be honest, I didn’t realize it was going to be a cliff hanger 🙂

  • Lucinda E Clarke

    I think it’s more a book for women John. Generally, men have less patience I think and maybe rebel earlier in life if they have a domineering home background? Some crawl out into the adult world with little or no self-esteem and if no one helps to build it, they are a sitting target for an overbearing partner.

  • Miriam Hurdle

    An excellent review, Debby. It seems like A Year in the Life… is appealing to the readers’ minds and emotions. It seems like it created enough tension to go after the next book.

  • Olga Nunez Miret

    Great review, Debby. As you know I had similar issues with the book, regarding the main character, and others that bothered me about some of the things that happen that stretched its believability for me.
    I agree the writer is very talented.
    Take care.

  • Lauren Scott

    Thanks for this extensive review, Debby. I’m always baffled as to why women stay in abusive relationships, but the perspective is much different on the outside. Unless we’ve walked in those shoes…I can speculate that money and resources are factors, and maybe even the threat, “If you leave, I’ll kill you.” Sounds like diaglogue on the big screen, but I’m sure it’s true life for many. If I can be honest, I probably won’t add this to my list, but I appreciate your review and sharing. 💕

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for your honesty Lauren. And, I am one of those women who’ve endured so I can speak freely. To this day I’m afraid to write about because I was stalked for years and his parting words were similar to the ones you wrote here: ‘If I can’t have you, nobody else will.’ Some words never leave. <3

  • Lucinda E Clarke

    I feel a blog post coming on to validate Leah 🙂 The words I heard frequently were – “I would never hurt you, I love you too much, but if you so much as look at anyone else, he will not survive.” This from an ex-SAS guy carried real weight in my mind. Now I think of it, I could have been a lot more brutal in my main memoir.

    • dgkaye

      Lucinda, many books are filled with characters we love to hate – sign of good writing, just some get triggered. I lived those same words for way too long. 🙂

  • Lucinda E Clarke

    Yes, me too, almost 25 years in fact – that’s with the Ex after the abuse from my mother. It’s so difficult to explain how helpless you feel when you have been brought up to have no self-confidence, no self-worth, and told if your own mother didn’t love you, who can? I often sit and wonder where I would be if I’d grown up in a normal family. I guess you do the same? I never believed people when they told me I was strong. Really? Me? Do I apologise all the time? I blame Disney and all those nature and soppy films about family life and mother love. Think a class action for fraud would succeed? 🙂 🙂

    • dgkaye

      Agreed with all you say Lucinda. Maybe we were sisters from another father? mother? LOL. I look forward to reading your memoir 🙂 We certainly got the double whammies – mothers and the wrong man. So glad I learned from the first round and married right. 🙂

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