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The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield

The Guilty One

by Sophie Littlefield

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The advertising for this book states that a man is on a bridge, waiting to jump, if the woman on the other end gives him the go ahead. That woman is Maris, whose life fell apart when her daughter, Calla, was murdered. Allegedly, Calla was killed by her boyfriend, Karl. It is his father, Ron, who stands on the bridge, calling Maris.

However, said advertising for this novel is rather misleading. I don't think it gives much away to say that the bridge scene leads off and takes about 2 seconds of the novel. The rest of the book alternates between Ron's story and Maris'. It's interesting, seeing the story unfold from their perspectives, but lags a bit, and Ron's sections drag somewhat. There isn't much that pushes the plot forward -- while billed as a thriller, there doesn't seem to be much mystery here, just psychological issues. I enjoyed Maris' scenes, for the most part, and the people she met along her journey, but perhaps didn't grasp the entire point...

Anyway, this one didn't really do it for me. It had its good moments, but overall wasn't my favorite.

(I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.) ( )
  justacatandabook | Mar 9, 2016 |
As a parent, facing the horror of your precious child being murdered is one thing, confronting the truth that your child is a murderer is another. In The Guilty One, Sophie Littlefield's 15th novel, Maris Vacanti and Ron Isherwood wrestle with the loss of their only children under very different circumstances.

A year ago, Maris's teenage daughter, Calla, was murdered, and shortly after Maris's husband left her, declaring their marriage a sham. Too emotionally depleted to even feign normalcy, Maris has let her suburban life lapse but is at a loss as to how to move on when a random encounter offers her the chance to escape and start anew.

Ron was horrified when his son Karl, Calla's ex boyfriend, was charged and later convicted for Calla's murder. Though his son, and wife, maintain a plea of innocence, Ron is racked with guilt because he believes his son is responsible and worries that it is his legacy of explosive violence, and the mistakes he made as a father, that contributed to Karl's actions.

An emotionally wrenching novel, The Guilty One is a character driven story that explores the themes of grief, guilt, forgiveness and redemption as Maris and Ron struggle to reconcile themselves to all they have lost, and find a way to move forward.

While the perspective of a bereaved parent of a murdered child has been examined often in fiction, the aftermath for the parents of the murderer have rarely been examined. To the best of my recollection, in most cases the killer's parents are absent or highly dysfunctional. Ron and Deb are ordinary middle class people and I appreciated the author's decision to humanise them, and acknowledge their grief and loss.

The pacing is measured, the writing and dialogue of a good standard. Though there is little in the way of overt action, Littlefield maintains a low hum of suspense, as Karl's culpability is in question.

I found The Guilty One to be a touching and thought-provoking novel, with a bittersweet but satisfying conclusion. ( )
  shelleyraec | Aug 13, 2015 |
A special thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Following Sophie Littlefield’s The Missing Place, landing on my Top Booklist of 2014, she returns with a riveting psychological suspense THE GUILTY ONE, delving into the aftermath of tragedy, grief, and hope for rediscovery.

As the novel opens, we meet Maris, main protagonist, 49-year-old mother, married to a man who barely speaks to her, who has suffered a horrible tragedy. She wants only to just live. Her teenage daughter Calla has been murdered. Calla’s former boyfriend, Karl was found guilty and is serving time in prison. Maris’s life is falling apart. Her marriage to Jeff, has been long gone. He has not been there for her, and even more so now since the loss of their daughter and their money. Their days of private schools, luxury homes, possessions, social events, and the finer things of life are long gone, as are their friends in these circles.

Maris is trying to find her way. How can she go on? What does she have left? Can she force herself to live with her successful sister? What is her purpose? She cannot go back to teaching and cannot bear to see reminders of her daughter and that life. Can she live again and move beyond her grief, rage, and depression?

Karl’s parents, Ron and Deb are hanging on by a thread, trying to deal with the aftermath of their son, being convicted of a horrific crime. Did they miss the signs of their violent son? Was the breakup too much for him to handle. Where did they go wrong? Do they continue fighting for appeals and drag Calla’s family through the stress again? Ron and Deb’s marriage is also suffering. Deb is determined to support her son, and Ron, has all but given up-- he cannot stand to visit his son. He feels guilt and thinks if he can end his own life, maybe he can help ease Maris’ loss for redemption. He thinks possibly jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge may settle the score. He will let Maris decide.

Maris wants to escape. She does not want to be the mother of the girl who was murdered. She is tired of the media, the sympathy, everyone feeling sorry for her, the guilt, and the sadness. She wants to go somewhere where no one knows her. She wants to start over without anyone knowing the past tragedy connected to her life.

Feeling numb and distraught, she drives to a bad area of town, with a few things in her car and stops to get coffee, where no one will recognize her, on her way to her sister, Alana’s house. While at the coffee shop, her car is broken into, and an eccentric young woman (Pet) with a backpack, and tattoos, and piercings, comes into the shop and sits next to her.

After she gets sick, Pet stays by her side. Pet has her own secrets; however on the exterior, she seems happy and content. However, Maris soon learns there are caring people out there who lead simple lives without all the money, and material possessions, who care. Everyone has their own burdens to bear and past to deal with.

When she decides to rent a small low-end inexpensive apartment next to Pet for a few weeks until she decides what she is going to do, her world opens to others with open hearts, those with their own burdens and tragedies. She uses another name, so no one will know her past-she is not forthcoming or honest.

We meet Pet’s landlord- Norris, her boss-George, and her mother. Each of the characters will come to hold special meaning to Maris on her road to acceptance and rediscovery. Was her marriage really in trouble before Calla’s murder? Can she go from elaborate galas to backyard BBQs? Can she love again? For the first time, she feels needed and accomplishing something. Can she be there for Pet in her time of need, as she was for her?

Flashing back and forth from Maris to Ron, we learn about Ron’s past, and his abusive relationship with his own father, and how this has carried over with his own relationship between him and his own son. Will he have to face his own past violence, and be honest, in order to continue a relationship with his wife and his own son? Will Maris be able to move on and come to terms with the fallout of this tragedy and live again?

How can you ever make up for the loss of an innocent life? In The Guilty One, a father struggles for redemption—and a mother wonders if she can ever find the strength to start over.

Wow, Littlefield delves into the emotional ties which bind us from grief, tragedy, loss, and love. Especially, when the parents know one another, adding to the intensity. A daughter and son dating; what went wrong? When teenage emotions become powerful and obsessive, and crosses the line into violence.
What I particularly enjoy about Sophie’s powerful writing with her last two books, is how she uses well-developed characters, strong women and mothers, of teens-- who can be broken from life’s complications—from the rich, well to do, to the poor and needy.

From both perspectives, she demonstrates how people can connect with our lives—some from the wrong side of the track, from different walks of life---which teach us important life lessons. Her characters seek a higher purpose and more meaningful life--triumph over tragedy. I loved Pet’s character, and how she accepted Maris without asking questions. How she invited her into her life, introduced her to her friends. We all want to meet a simple fun-loving George!

A highly emotional, gripping page-turner psychological suspense, and a gifted powerhouse author not to be missed. After reading these two 5 star winners, may have to go back and read her back list! An ideal choice for book clubs and discussions, with a wide variety of personalities and perspectives. In fact enjoyed these characters so much, would love to see a continuation.

Highly Recommend! ( )
  JudithDCollins | Aug 8, 2015 |
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The day Ron Isherwood calls Maris Vacanti from the Golden Gate Bridge, asking if he should jump, is the day Maris's world completely transforms. Maris has been consumed with grief and anger since her teenage daughter was found dead at the hands of Ron's son. Her marriage is in pieces and her routine shattered. Now, burdened with a terrible choice by a man whose existence is forever entwined with hers- a fellow parent breaking under the weight of the past- she gathers her courage and walks out on her sheltered suburban life.… (more)

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