4 stars out of 5
What a wild ride! For a debut novel, it sure is impressive. My thanks to the author for providing me with a copy in exchange for a review.
The story begins as Ella leaves her home in San Diego to visit her sister, Lorraine, who is dealing with a serious illness. Lorraine, whose former husband Craig left her to marry Martha, the woman with whom he had an affair while married, also has help from Lexy, an au pair originally from London. Lorraine also has a teenage son, Logan - who stays with her and regularly visits his father, Craig. There's also an infant son, Sam; the father is someone with whom Lorraine had a fling after her marriage fell apart and who has little interest in being in his son's life.
Almost the second Ella arrives, things start to get a bit crazy - most notably as Lexy and Logan suddenly do a disappearing act. A police investigation ensues, Lorraine's condition makes a steep downhill turn both physically and mentally and suddenly everyone's behavior comes into question. More than that I won't reveal, except to say that chapters alternate among the main characters - as well as time period - with each adding background clues that show how what happened then impacts what's happening now. The author uses that technique to good advantage, but I admit it was a little tough for me to keep straight; I was so engrossed in the story that I kept forgetting to check the date and time on each chapter before plunging ahead. There are twists and turns (some I expected, others I did not), and the ending leaves the whole thing more than a little bit open to interpretation.
There were a few inconsistencies that bothered me a bit - such as text messages that were deleted but easily retrieved and responded to in one instance but apparently deleted and lost forever in another - hence my decision to round down to 4 stars instead of up to 5 for reviews on websites that do not allow half-stars. That said, this is an outstanding work that I recommend without hesitation. If this is any example, the author has a promising future as a novelist ahead of her. I just hope when she finishes the next one she'll give me the opportunity to read it, too!
Give It Back by Danielle Esplin (Amazon Digital Services LLC, April 2016); 262 pp.