Meredith Oliver and Lisa Bellow aren’t friends. In fact, Lisa’s mockery of Meredith has made her miserable. One day after school Meredith stops off for a treat at the sandwich shop before heading home, and nearly leaves when she sees Lisa is inside, but decides to go in and make her purchase as planned. This is how both Lisa and Meredith find themselves in the wrong place at the worst possible time. A disguised man with a gun comes in to rob the place and, when there’s little money to be taken, he forces Lisa to go with him, leaving Meredith behind. Physically, she’s unharmed, but mentally and emotionally, Meredith is traumatized by Lisa’s abduction and struggles with the grief and guilt she feels in the aftermath of the crime. How are you supposed to feel when you’re the lone witness to the kidnapping of someone you don’t even like?
Meredith is full of conflicted feelings. Though she is relieved to be safe with her family, she feels like she should have been taken instead of Lisa. Other times, she feels they both should have been taken. She spends her days imagining what Lisa must be going though, and slowly withdraws from her family and friends.
Meredith isn’t alone in her suffering. Her mother feels relieved (and guilty for feeling it) that her daughter wasn’t the one taken. Lisa’s mother clings to the belief that her daughter will be found, despite the lack of leads in the case. And Lisa—wherever she is—is likely the one suffering the most.
Perabo did a great job of showing the confusion felt by everyone involved, and draws the reader into that confusion, as well. The resolution wasn’t quite what I expected, but it worked. All in all, this was a good read, and I enjoyed it.
About the Book
The suspenseful, breakout novel from the critically acclaimed author of the short story collections Who I Was Supposed to Be and Why They Run the Way They Do—when a middle school girl is abducted in broad daylight, a fellow student and witness to the crime copes with the tragedy in an unforgettable way.
What happens to the girl left behind?
A masked man with a gun enters a sandwich shop in broad daylight, and Meredith Oliver suddenly finds herself ordered to the filthy floor, where she cowers face to face with her nemesis, Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl in her eighth grade class. The minutes tick inexorably by, and Meredith lurches between comforting the sobbing Lisa and imagining her own impending death. Then the man orders Lisa Bellow to stand and come with him, leaving Meredith the girl left behind.
After Lisa’s abduction, Meredith spends most days in her room. As the community stages vigils and searches, Claire, Meredith’s mother, is torn between relief that her daughter is alive, and helplessness over her inability to protect or even comfort her child. Her daughter is here, but not.
Like Everything I Never Told You and Room, The Fall of Lisa Bellow is edgy and original, a hair-raising exploration of the ripple effects of an unthinkable crime. It is a dark, beautifully rendered, and gripping novel about coping, about coming-of-age, and about forgiveness. It is also a beautiful illustration of how one family, broken by tragedy, finds healing.
About the Author
SUSAN PERABO is the author of two collections of short stories, “Why They Run the Way They Do” and “Who I Was Supposed to Be,” and a novel, “The Broken Places” (all with Simon and Schuster). Her fiction has been anthologized in “Best American Short Stories,” “Pushcart Prize Stories,” and “New Stories from the South,” and has appeared in numerous magazines, including One Story, Glimmer Train, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, and The Sun. She is Writer in Residence and Professor of English at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA.