Saturday, May 24, 2014

One step too far by Tina Seskis

One day Emily Coleman wakes up and walks out of her life for good leaving behind her marriage, her family, her whole life.  For months her life has drifted, and she and her husband Ben have drifted apart because of that moment, a moment she will never forget and can not face alone.  Taking her money and the basics she boards a train and leaves Manchester for a new life in London, leaving Emily behind and becoming Catherine "Cat" Brown, a name she thought was left in her past.  Starting over is not easy, especially when she could only plan so far ahead, but she soon finds her guardian Angel and settles into her life.  Back in Manchester her husband Ben wakes to find her gone and begins to search for her - a search that seems hopeless because she chose to leave.

Fast forward a few months and things seem to be on track for Cat, but there is a secret from her past that she must face if she is to truly move forward.  As her new life takes hold, flashes of the past surface, flashes about her twin sister Caroline who seems to always step in and ruin everything for Emily.  But Caroline and Emily are both a result of their upbringing, each in their own way damaged by a mother who held all her love for the daughter she expected, and the distant father who preferred spending time with his mistress rather than his wife and daughters.  When her old world and new world collide Cat/Emily must face the past head on, no matter how painful it may be - and she must choose the life she wants to keep, the old or the new.

One step too far starts with a simple premise - an unhappy woman leaves her life behind because of something that happened, something that has driven a wedge between her and her husband.  It seems relatively straight forward, you may even think you can guess what the secret is, and then things start to get a little twisted and complex as you are thrust into Emily's life and her past.  The main characters of the novel are Emily/Cat, her twin sister Caroline, her mother Frances, her father Andrew, and her husband Ben - and it is through all of them that you develop a complete picture of the events that lead to Emily abandoning her life to become Cat - a somewhat shallow and brittle version of her former self.

At first I found this to be an addictive read, I was hooked from the first page and read the novel in a few bursts getting in as much of the story as possible in each sitting.  The style is a little unusual, pulling together lots of different points in time and blending them into the main timeline of Cat and her adventures in her new life, with each little segue adding depth to the present day story.  I was so involved with the story that at times I found myself forgiving the author when the story seemed a little too unbelievable, or when it felt like something was missing - but unfortunately at the end of the novel I just couldn't do that anymore. 

The ending is a surprise, when you discover what drove Emily away, but it also feels like it was rushed, that the author ran out of time or patience to finish it off properly.  Then there is all this flurry of activity at the very end that just seems wrong - like an after thought.  On the whole this is a good read that could have been great without the window dressing at the end.  It will be interesting to see if Seskis can write more novels with this mix of character and tension building - without feeling the need to make things all neat and tidy.

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Reviewed by Brilla

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