Parts of this one hit me hard.
I’ve lost multiple high school classmates to drugs/opioids. It’s painful. I don’t even really have the words to express some of the sorrow I’ve felt over lives lost. I never looked at my old neighborhood as a place to escape. I was happy there growing up. But times change.
At the heart of the book, this is a story of two sisters who take divergent paths. Those kinds of tales usually aren’t my thing, writers often rely too much on juxtaposition. But this isn’t that kind of tale. Liz Moore tells it all through the first person perspective of Mickey, the cop sister who “did everything right.” Though she may not have because her family ignores her and her addict sister hates her. She has no one besides her son.
But it’s more than that. Moore pulls back the story to reveal how much our environments impact us whether we want them to or not. Kensington, a former working class neighborhood gone to seed, is practically a character in the story, a place no one can really escape even if they get out. Moore doesn’t condescend the neighborhood, rather she gives it a distinct life. It imbues the story with some much needed ethos.
Thus, by building the neighborhood and having the characters branch out from it, the story can really hum. Everything feels consequential in both past and present exchanges. I was busy most of the week but I used every free moment I could to finish this.
Not all of it works; it falls just shy of greatness. Parts of the plot are stagnant. The quote-free format can frustrate. I don’t think the story needed the twist.
But still, this is a great book. Definitely one of the best I read this year.