Monday, October 25, 2021

Is Anyone Really Who They Seem?




“I know what you did that day.”

This cover proclamation on the novel “Safe With Me,” by K.L. Slater, still baffles me since it could belong to any one of the strange and twisted characters in this book. My bet is on Mrs. Peat but opinions vary. And I was actually able to get different opinions as I had the pleasure of reading along with the MI Girls Bookclub.

First, a huge thank you to Sharon McLaughlin from the MI Girls Bookclub for inviting me to sit in and observe the club in action. The MI Girls Bookclub was born seven years ago and it’s grown to an incredible 72 members! Here’s how it works: Six books are selected each season from a wide range of genres. Each month, the women gather in somebody’s community room (they outgrew homes a while ago) for the book discussion. They break up into tables of four to eight people with a different list of questions for each group. After 15-minutes, the women switch tables so all members get to experience everyone’s thoughts. It’s a great way to encourage diverse conversations. After the book has been contentedly dissected, the women turn their attention to the food and drink they all brought and spend the rest of the evening enjoying each other’s company. Or as Sharon puts it, “We eat, drink and be merry!”



When it came to “Safe With Me,” the overall grade was average. It’s most assuredly a thriller, but no “Gone Girl” or “Girl On The Train,” two books Slater seems to emulate. Some of the comments from the MI Girls Bookclub were “too many characters,” “too much back and forth between the past and the present,” and “too dark.” All of these diluted the tension and the reader ends up being conflicted on whether to be more interested in what happened 13-years ago or what was happening in the present.

Now having said that, some of the characters were vividly drawn, starting with our protagonist Anna. One of the questions from the MI Girls Bookclub was “Which characters in the book had a mental illness and why?” The answer is more than one but the text book example is Anna. Something happened in Anna’s life 13-years ago and the life she so very carefully constructed to get over it clearly didn’t help, as a chance encounter with one person causes everything to unravel. Slater takes her time in revealing this event, which weakens the impact, but it does give context to Anna’s actions. But understanding a character’s motivations and feeling sympathetic towards them are two different things. I could never get behind Anna. She was just too delusional.

Amanda is Anna’s chance encounter. She is the most straightforward of all the characters outside the peripheral people involved in Anna’s job. Another MI Bookclub question was, “Which character was the most vulnerable?” Again, there are multiple answers to this question but for me it was Amanda, one of the few characters I felt compassion towards. Amanda and her vulnerability come from being completely unaware that she is being maliciously sabotaged by Anna.

Liam is the catalyst for Anna and Amanda to meet. Liam seems pretty normal but in a psychological thriller, is anyone really who they seem?

Then there is Mrs. Peat, Anna’s elderly neighbor who has known her since childhood. We get a glimpse into young Anna’s life through Mrs. Peat, who appears like your pretty normal elderly neighbor but again, is anyone really who they seem?

The twists and turns in “Safe With Me” all come about at the end but in between there is mistaken identity, murder, child abuse, fights, lying and suicide. And mail fraud.

Psychological thrillers aren’t meant to be educational, so while I didn’t learn anything from “Safe With Me,” I did learn something from the MI Girls Bookclub… mostly that there are lots (at least 72!) of intelligent women who love books. These women took their reading passion and turned it into a book club that has morphed into a cooking club, bicycle club, golfing club and more. I left the MI Girls that evening with a new list of titles to add to my ever-expanding queue and a renewed appreciation for the lasting effects of friendships forged through a common bond. So, to the MI Girls Bookclub, a heartfelt “thank you” for inviting me into your circle for one night. Your generosity was truly appreciated.

As always, thank you for your timeLynn Alexander is a recently published author and long-time book, food, cat and college football lover (Go Green!). Her career journey started in upstate New York, writing and recording commercials for radio. She moved to Venice, Florida to manage a restaurant which led her to Naples and Marco in 2002, where she currently books weddings and events at the Marco Beach Ocean Resort. Alexander is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum which fed her passion for history and learning. A butterfly at parties but a loner at heart, she loves nothing more than baking yummy desserts then retreating to a quiet corner to read.

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