Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Review: Take Me Apart by Sara Sligar

Title: Take Me Apart
Author: Sara Sligar
Published: April 2020, MCD
Format: ARC Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Publisher

A young archivist's obsession with her subject's mysterious death threatens to destroy her fragile grasp on sanity, in a riveting debut novel of psychological suspense.

When the famed photographer Miranda Brand died mysteriously at the height of her career, it sent shock waves through Callinas, California. Decades later, old wounds are reopened when her son, Theo, hires ex-journalist Kate Aitken to create an archive of his mother's work.

From Miranda's vast maze of personal effects, Kate pieces together a portrait of a vibrant artist buckling under the pressures of ambition, motherhood, and marriage. As the summer progresses, Kate navigates vicious local rumors and her growing attraction to the enigmatic Theo, all while unearthing the shocking details of Miranda's private life. But Kate has secrets of her own, and when she stumbles across a diary that may finally resolve the mystery of Miranda's death, her curiosity starts to spiral into a dangerous obsession.

With breathtaking and haunting imagery, Take Me Apart paints a vivid picture of two magnetic young women, separated by years, but bonded by shared struggles. Sara Sligar draws readers into a web of secrets and lies, alternating between the present and the past and revealing the truth about Miranda's death through the objects she left behind.

My thoughts: I love a book that completely surprises me and that is exactly what this book did. I happened to pick this one up at Bouchercon last fall and knew nothing about it, save for the synopsis on the back cover. And sometimes, having just that little bit is good because when you get too much information about a book, I think expectations become too high.

This is a slow-burning character study that delves into some fascinating subjects. I loved the way it was told, alternating between Kate's point of view in the present and then either diary entries from Miranda or correspondence to or from Miranda. It was such an interesting way to get a feel for who Miranda was as a person and just how troubled she really was. I have to say I was equally invested in both characters because even though it was clear that Miranda had some mental issues going on, there was hints that not all is right with Kate as well.

This book took hold of me and I found myself completely captivated by what was going on. It's not a book that I wanted to rush through, but rather one that I took my time with, reading and digesting little by little. I loved the writing and I loved the vivid way the author explores that creative process that Miranda, and even her husband Jake, went through to create their art. But it wasn't even just that. Even the descriptions of mental illness, motherhood and obsession were so clear and descriptive that it really made it a very thought-provoking novel. 

This book is both haunting and stunning. While there is a bit of a mystery there, I feel the character study is really where it shines, and as the characters are slowly revealed to their base layers, the mystery is finally solved. It is brilliantly crafted and I know that I will absolutely be keeping an eye out for what Sara Sligar writes next. To say that I am in awe that this is a debut novel is an understatement. She is clearly an author to watch!


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