Grist Mill Road is the small side road that leads to the front door of Hannah’s family’s enormous home in 1982. The summer of that year, Hannah will lose her left eye to an unthinkable crime, and her middle school crush, Matthew, will be responsible. By 2008, Hannah is married to Patrick, Matthew’s former best friend, who has recently lost his job. The two never discuss the events of 1982, along with… some other things. In 2008, the three meet again, and as their secrets become exposed, they fall and are pushed into further violence. The book is broken into three parts, essentially following the perspective of one of each of the three central characters through the events of 1982 and 2008. The biggest difference between the three perspectives are the exact events that led up to the day Matthew shot Hannah and whether that act is as unforgivable as we first think.
The mystery definitely held my attention well, but ultimately I was disappointed in some of the plot. I had to keep going to get to the bottom of how they’d make the initial shooting somehow forgivable or understandable, but it was only successful as far as making it less obviously evil. The plot spends a lot of time focusing on motivations going into the shooting, but some of the final triggers are breezed past very quickly, and the most inexplicable portions of both that story and the events in 2008 ended up being the least explored. Patrick’s unraveling turns into some incredibly extreme choices, and lessening his direct perspective after the first third made the action of the rest of that timeline feel a bit rushed and nonsensical, which is unfortunate given the extremity of the actions, and how much they really called for that explanation. Everyone’s mileage will vary with unreliable narrators, and for me, they got tiring here.
It sounds like I have a lot of complaints, but the writing was still very effective, and there is a lot of wonderful character work through all of their first-person recollections, so I did enjoy over all the process of reading it. It’s just a little disappointing that the last few plot points tripped up and, for me, slightly soured the rest of what was developed.