Y’all, that was bananas.
Imagine every noir trope/betrayal/plot twist thrown into a blender and served up with a healthy dose of modern mom issues, and you have this completely insane book that I read essentially overnight when I should have been sleeping. Granted, I was trying to crush the book ahead of going to see the movie, but stupid MoviePass delayed that latter by a week. Still, it was an engaging and oftentimes surprisingly heartfelt look at modern motherhood and family and friendship, amidst all the chaos of criminal activity.
It starts with Stephanie, a well-off widow who runs a cheery mommy blog, whose best friend Emily goes missing. As she rallies her readers to help her find Emily, she finds herself getting improperly close to Emily’s husband, Sean, as the two work on raising their kids together in Emily’s absence. At the 10% mark you begin to discover that sweet, sunny Stephanie has some pretty twisted secrets. At the 53% mark, I actually had to put my Kindle aside because I was suffering from the literary equivalent of watching a scary movie and noping the hell out of there. Obviously, I got over it, but yikes, that was some creepy stuff! I cannot wait to see how they’ll manage that terrific atmosphere in the actual movie.
Anyway, A Simple Favor follows in the tradition of the Patricia Highsmith novels it lovingly cites, updating that style of noir for the 21st century and making for a terrifically entertaining, if absolutely bonkers, novel of complicated women who are fiercely devoted to their children. I don’t know how I felt about that ending, honestly. I don’t know if I liked the “winner” enough to enjoy it fully, and that’s okay. I’ll likely write a Page To Screen entry comparing the two once I’ve seen the movie, so stay tuned. Regardless, I’m awed at the assured full-throttle intensity of Darcey Bell’s debut novel, and look forward to reading more of her work.