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The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo
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The Fall of Lisa Bellow

by Susan Perabo

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This book has a story line that attracted and interested me from the start. The author hints at the possibility of a shocking or dramatic ending. In actuality, I found the ending to be a bit rushed and not what I expected.
I was also a bit irritated by the typical but catty behavior of the teen girls. I suspect that a younger reader would be more appreciative or at least tolerant of this aspect of the story.
In spite of this, I enjoyed the book. I found the writing realist and interesting. I had conflicting feelings about a few of the characters, but was sympathetic to most of them.
I thank the publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this title. ( )
  c.archer | Apr 18, 2017 |
The Short of It:

A tense, finely orchestrated tale of what happens to a person when guilt works its way through you from the inside out.

The Rest of It:

Everyone has known a “Lisa Bellow” in their lifetime. Lisa is that pretty girl who can wear a pair of ugly shoes and somehow make them fashionable. She’s the girl who every other girl strives to be and she knows it. She can cut you down with a look or a couple of words and no matter how confident you are, the hurt takes its toll.

This is the story of Lisa and Meredith, victims of a sandwich shop robbery. Both, told to hit the floor. Both, scared for their lives. Only one taken as a hostage. As Lisa is forced to leave with the robber, Meredith stays on the ground, fearful for her life but is that the only reason she chooses to remain there?

The Fall of Lisa Bellow was a perfect read for me. It had everything I like in a book and then that human nature thing kicked in and I could not put it down. I kept asking myself, “Where is Lisa? Is she alive? Is it just a set-up? Where in God’s name can she be?” I mean, this story really worked my brain but in a totally good way.

Meredith, is also a victim. She’s the one left behind and the one who bears the weight of Lisa’s disappearance and it’s heartbreaking. HEARTBREAKING, I tell you! Her memory of the event is not reliable and she questions what would have happened if she had done something differently. Meredith’s mother is protective of her but also feels a sense of guilt as Lisa’s mom continually makes contact with them and with Lisa’s friends, all in a desperate attempt to keep Lisa in her life.

This author gets into each character’s head and really stirs things up. I’m talking childhood memories, hateful feelings, jealousy and spite and no matter how shocking some of it is, it’s not all that shocking given the circumstances. I could relate to every single person in this story and that’s rare. My heart ached for so many of these characters.

You know how hard it is to turn the last page of a novel you love? I think I read the last page at least three times. Get yourself a copy.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | Apr 11, 2017 |
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

To be clear right away, Susan Perabo's The Fall of Lisa Bellow is not a crime thriller, despite its salacious premise of a 13-year-old girl who is kidnapped at a convenience store one random day for mysterious reasons; and fans of that genre who are expecting one will be profoundly disappointed by this book, which is why I warn you right off the bat. (Just for one big example, we never do learn the fate of the kidnapped girl, which will make fans of whodunits throw this book across the room in anger by the end. Buyer beware.) What this book actually is, then, is a smart and deep character study about all the people who were incidentally affected by this crime in the small suburban community where they live; chiefly fellow 13-year-old Meredith Oliver, who was also at the convenience store during the botched robbery, and comes to realize that the reason Lisa was taken hostage and not her was precisely because of the better looks and more expensive clothes that made Lisa a bullying "Mean Girl" who Meredith hated, an emotionally complex realization that she then grapples with to various levels of success and failure over the next year. This in turn then affects her mother, Claire, already struggling with the normal travails of Meredith becoming a teenager that year, questioning her identity as a parent and wife as she grows from middle-age into a "woman of a certain age;" and meanwhile there is older brother Evan, who has recently suffered through a trauma in his own right (an eye-socket baseball injury that has left him semi-blind, his theoretical future career as a pro player now over), and whose own recovery is compared regularly to the ever-widening rabbithole of despair that Meredith finds herself falling into as the months continue.

It's a pretty great domestic drama as far as domestic dramas go, although that comes with the usual caveat that you need to be in the same position as the protagonist (a middle-class, middle-aged, suburban mom, that is) to enjoy this book at its fullest; as someone who's the diametric opposite of that, Claire's hand-wringing over being a good parent, and her struggles to be her own unique person within a stultifying suburban environment, largely went over my head, a specific weakness of author Perabo herself that I didn't experience in, say, the similarly set but much better Little Children by Tom Perrotta. But that said, there are some wonderfully nasty little moments thrown in here and there as well, a reflection of this short-story veteran and Pushcart winner's revered status among fans of edgy academic material, that keep things lively no matter what kind of reader you are. (I especially loved dentist Claire's flashback experience with causing deliberate pain to a seven-year-old patient she had discovered had been bullying her daughter at school, and the way she simply shrugs off the offended horror of her goodie-good husband when she admits it to him, a nice shorthand method for getting across just how far Claire will go as a mother to protect her children.) Not a book I would've sought out on my own, but one I'm glad that Simon & Schuster sent my way, this is perfect reading material for those who are usually force-fed an unending sludge pile of "chick-lit" nonsense by the mainstream media, and are desperately on the lookout for something darker and meatier.

Out of 10: 8.2, or 9.2 for fans of domestic dramas ( )
  jasonpettus | Apr 10, 2017 |
What happens to the girl who is not chosen by a kidnapper? How does she survive when one does not? This is the story of teenager Meredith Oliver who was in a local deli when a man came in and robbed the store. Also in the store was popular girl Lisa Bellow. Lisa made Meredith’s life difficult at school but she also had a few redeeming moments throughout their short history. However, it was Lisa the man chose to kidnap, leaving Meredith behind to sort through a complex case of survivor’s guilt. It was an interesting look at how one young teen and her family dealt with this trauma. ( )
  Susan.Macura | Apr 10, 2017 |
The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo is a highly recommended complex family drama about survivor's guilt.

Meredith Oliver is thirteen and in the eighth grade. She and her friends watch and discuss the popular mean girls at their school, including Lisa Bellows, whose locker is next to Meredith's. It is a struggle for anyone to get through the day when in middle school. Meredith's family is still recovering from the horrible accident her adored older brother had when playing baseball. Now he's essentially blind in one eye. All Meredith wants to do is get through this day in October and stop to get a root beer at the Deli Barn after school.

When Meredith gets to the Deli Barn, she sees that Lisa Bellows is already there, so she has to wait for Lisa to order her two sandwiches. Suddenly a masked gun man enters the sandwich shop. He orders both girls to get on the floor and robs the place. The two girls cower together on the floor, alternately giving each other support. Before the gun man leaves he tells Lisa to get up and come with him. Meredith remains on the floor, completely paralyzed with fear, until a customer comes in, a janitor at her school, and calls the police. Meredith is traumatized, trying to deal with witnessing the kidnapping, being the girl left behind, and processing all her feeling about the event.

The narrative has chapters alternating between two characters, following the thoughts and emotions of Meredith and Claire Oliver, her mother. While Meredith is trying to understand why she was the one left behind and find some answers, if only in her head. Claire is relieved her daughter was not taken, but struggles with confronting her inability to protect her children or even comfort them.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow is a very well-written book and was compelling enough that, staying up a bit too late, I read it in one sitting. I simply had to find out what happened. Perabo manages to capture and realistically portray the inner voice and struggles of both a thirteen-year old girl and her mother. This is a feat in itself. Both Meredith and Claire are strong characters who are dealing with their unspeakable mental anguish in their own way. They are also both well developed characters and strikingly realistic - neither of them are particularly likable. The depiction of Meredith struggling with survivor's guilt and trying to process what happened is especially effective.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2017/03/the-fall-of-lisa-bellow.html
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1939121206 ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 12, 2017 |
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