4 out of 4 stars
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Can someone else steal your suicide?
That's the catchphrase of The Second Cup by Sarah Marie Graye and it's, definitely, a powerful one. Faye, Beth, Olivia, and Abbie are best friends and as different as they can possibly be. Faye is an impetuous artist, Beth a conflicted control-freak, Olivia an insecure beauty and Abbie an apparently successful functioning alcoholic. They struggle with problems we can all relate to: men, work, personal insecurities. However, when Jack, Faye's ex-boyfriend dies, they'll be forced to face their pasts and their relationships: with others, within their friend group and with themselves.
This book has so many amazing assets that it's hard to name them all. Even when the catchphrase suggests otherwise this isn't a thriller but a very well-developed personal narrative. This is not to say that it lacks a mysterious element, but I think the focus of the book is getting into the mind and the hearts of four very different women. I appreciate personal narratives and I think they're often overlooked in favor of more sensational plots or highly complicated worlds.
The book approaches the subject of mental illness, which is in itself something to applaud, but the thing that I commend the most is that it does so without sensationalism and providing a much-needed insiders view, as well as some very powerful reflections about the world and the people that surround us. The author, herself, has struggled all her life with mental illness and wanted to:
She, definitely, succeeded.“share my story not only to reach out to others who may feel the same, but also to try and explain how it feels.”
Another thing I loved about this book was the structure. In a very British fashion, the connecting thread of the story is tea and it holds several important symbolisms throughout the story. The chapters are named after tea-related items: teapots, teabags, teaspoons, teacups, and the author inserts small chapters where she talks about tea. This may seem totally out-of-place and as if it could interrupt the flow of the story but, trust me, it doesn't, and the symbolic meaning enriches the narrative very much. Also, in the end, instead of a typical epilogue, the author conducts an interview with each one of the main characters of the story. It's the cherry on top of a very well constructed cake and a very original ending. The Second Cup has many hidden meanings, among them the symbolism of the title and the cover art, and I had a great time unveiling them.
Even though this is personal narrative there's a lot going on at all times and a mystery to solve, so I think it won't be boring even for readers who prefer much more intrigue in their reads.
The characters are amazingly well-developed. They're multi-dimensional, flawed, human and highly relatable. They have very well thought backstories and they really seem to come to life. They evolve along the story. Faye, Olivia, Abbie or Beth could be your best friends, your sisters, you.
The book was very well edited and I could only find very few mistakes of little or no importance. The author asks the reader in a note to the reviewer to let her know if any words are not understandable because the book is written in British English and does contain some British slang. However, I didn't find it troublesome at all. Most words can be deduced by the context and they were very few ones that I had to look up.
The only drawback of the novel is that I had trouble distinguishing each woman's voice at first. The chapters are narrated both from each woman's perspective and from an omniscient one. But, in the beginning, all the four voices sounded the same to me and I had to go back and look to the title of the chapter to see who was talking. It's hard to create an individual voice for each character, but it would have made the story much more enjoyable and easy to read. As the book advances, you get much more sense of who's talking but it can get confusing at first.
I recommend this book for anyone interested in personal narratives, female perspective, mental illnesses and anyone who enjoys reading about everyday struggles. This book isn't the best suit for people who enjoy action-packed stories or fantasy reads, as it's highly realistic.
For its amazingly well-developed characters, meaningful topics, interesting symbolism, and original structure I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars.
The Second Cup
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