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The Promised World by Lisa Tucker

The Promised World by Lisa Tucker is only available in county in large print.  I normally avoid the large print editions because I don't like them.  But I didn't feel like requesting it through ILL, so I just read one of the large print copies in the county.  It's one of those books that once you pick it up and it's in your hands and you're reading it--well, it's hard to put down because it draws you in to its pages.  But it's also the kind of book that once you put it down for whatever reason before you've finished it, you realize it's hard to pick up again because you dread what might be coming next for the characters.  Is anybody else like that--do you avoid reading a book (no matter how good) because you dread the outcome for the characters and the travails they might have to suffer before the end of the book?  I've found myself having these feelings with more than one book.  It's hard to put down, but it's also hard to pick up again because you're afraid of what's going to happen next.  Well, not really afraid, it's more like you dread it.

Lila and Billy are twins who share an extremely close bond.  However, as close as they are, when Billy commits suicide by cop, Lila is shocked and devastated.  Then Lila finds out that there were secrets--in his life and in their shared past--that Billy kept from her.  Not least of these were the facts that he was in the middle of a contentious divorce and was being investigated for abusing his middle child, William.

This is a story that unfolds from four perspectives: Lila, Billy's devastated twin for whom his death triggers both a mental breakdown and a journey of self-discovery; his grieving eight year old son William, the child Billy was accused of abusing; his soon-to-be ex-wife Ashley, who even in the wake of his death cannot escape the family curse about which Billy ranted and believed responsible for all the hardship and bad luck his young family has withstood; and Lila's husband, Patrick, whose world is rocked by the lies his wife told him about her past.  This is a deeply disturbing, puzzling, and suspenseful novel about a family dealing with both a tragic loss and a painful, twisted past that has extended its reach to take hold of this family's future to wreak as much damage as possible.

When her brother dies, Lila realizes that she remembers nothing of her childhood except dark, deeply fragmented bits and pieces and that most of what she does know is the product of the stories Billy told her.  These stories he made up though they have a kernel of truth at their center and that he told to protect her from the catastrophic trauma of abuse that she suffered at the hands of a cruel monster.  Lila's husband realizes that despite the lies she told him about her past and his belief that his wife has never loved him that he must stand by her to see her through this tragedy and to help her put together the pieces of her fragmented, traumatic childhood.

Meanwhile, Ashley, who has taken up with an old high school crush that turns out to be bad news, has cut off all contact between her children and Lila.  Pearl, Billy's oldest daughter who was a daddy's girl, determines to understand her father and his torments the way her mother never could.  She's determined to get her mother's new boyfriend out of their lives for good and to do so Pearl hatches a twisted plan whose consequences may destroy both her and her younger brother as well as her family forever.  It is a plan that brings back into their family the cruel monster that Billy and Lila fled all those years ago.  This is a monster whose true nature Pearl cannot understand--largely because her father, also a victim of its insidious mental abuse, never realized its true nature.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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