12.21.2014

Unbecoming, by Rebecca Scherm

Unbecoming
Grace doesn't know who she is. She knows who she wants to be. She wants to be Riley's beloved wife and Mrs. Graham's adored daughter-in-law. She wants to be perfect. She wants to hide from her origins as the poor daughter of a family that ignored her, from a rural town in Tennessee. Of course, no one can keep up an illusion forever. Someone is bound to find out what Grace is like when no one is watching her. Rebecca Scherm details Grace's slow unraveling in Unbecoming, as Grace finally learn to live with her real self.

Unbecoming opens in Paris. Grace works under the table at an antiques restoration shop. She's clearly hiding from something. She's transformed herself into quiet Julie to prevent her past from catching up to her. As Grace repairs damaged family heirlooms and restores collector's pieces, she reveals what has sent her across an ocean. A few years before, Grace's husband and his best friends robbed a historical house in Garland. One pled out, but Riley and his friend, Alls, served three years. When we meet her, Grace has just learned that Riley and Alls have been paroled. And she's terrified that one or both of them will come find her.

Scherm shows us Grace's life in flashbacks. We see her ignored by her parents, who started over with a second marriage and new children. We see her adopted by the Grahams and falling in love with their son, Riley. even though things seem to be working out for Grace, she can't help but fear that it will all disappear. She works hard to be what everyone wants her to be, but she can only do that by lying. Grace might have been able to muddle along if it weren't for Alls. Alls haunts her. When they end up sleeping together, the secret fractures Grace's façade. What begins as a literary novel starts to take on some of the characteristics of a heist story.

Grace is hard to like. As much as she lies to others, she lies to herself. She keeps telling herself how she ought to be and ought to live, instead of striking out to discover what will really make her happy. It's hard to watch, because I wanted to reach through the pages and send Grace to some hardcore therapy. Unbecoming is a strange coming of age novel. Usually, you see characters trying to go straight after a life of crime. Grace goes the other way. As she gets closer to real happiness and love, Grace becomes more honest—and much less frustrating as a character. You still wouldn't want to meet her at a party—because she'll rob you blind. But I think you'll grow to enjoy watching her story spin out.

I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 22 January 2015.

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