Saturday, November 14, 2015

Review: The Devil's Playground by Eliza Freed

The Devil's Playground 
by Eliza Freed
Series:  Faraway #1
Pub. Date:  Nov. 10, 2015
Publisher:  Brunswick House
Pages:  300
Format:  eARC
Source:  Author

My Rating:  
Sultry Scale:

Former U.S. Attorney, Meredith Walsh, took some time off to raise her children. But the time took away everything she once trusted about herself. She’s lost within the mundane confines of her children's schedules of lacrosse, soccer, Cub Scouts, and math facts. Desperate for a sliver of her former passion, and isolated in the small town her corporate husband relocated her to, she counsels herself on risking her family for the rush of a fling.

But Vincent Pratt, the local chief of police, weakens Meredith’s abhorrence of affairs and her dedication to her family. With him, she finds a new version of herself, one capable of contributing in her new world, and thriving in her lonely home. In spite of the fact, she’s not the kind of woman who has an affair.

This is a very hard review for me to write. Let me start off by saying that the book is very well-written. The story is paced well and there were no plot holes. There was good character development and there was definitely an emotional connection. I think that emotional draw is what got me hooked and kept me reading.

But having said all of the above, this book was utterly depressing. Like suck you into a bottomless pit of desperation depressing. I must have said that to my friend Deanna a hundred times while reading this book. But I couldn't stop reading even when I could feel my mood being pulled down by the book.

Why did I find it so depressing? I think it may have hit a little too close to home - as in "this is what your life could have been like if you would have gotten married" close to home. The book I read before The Devil's Playground made me lament being single... but this book made me afraid to ever get married or have kids! It was so full of stay-at-home mom angst that I was choking on it. Not only do I share a profession with Meredith, but also some of her inner musings and mannerisms reminded me of myself. I could totally see myself cussing out the plant that is determined to die. I also understood her career ambition, so I could not imagine giving it up to be utterly sucked into the void that was Meredith's life.

Meredith's husband, Brad, was a total inconsiderate ass. As soon as his mentions of work trips out of town/country were mentioned, my suspicious mind got going and I figured he had a second family or something. This is not the case, but at one point Meredith's musings take her in that direction as well and it was just another connection I felt with her. Or maybe its just easy these days for women to become so jaded. Or maybe its just female attorneys. Who knows. But I could not stand Brad and the more I learned about him, the more I understood Meredith and where this affair was coming from. Don't get me wrong I am absolutely against adultery, but I understood Meredith's loneliness and desperation to find a purpose, even if I don't understand the whole staying in a miserable marriage for the sake of the children ideal.

As for Vince, the hot body Chief of Police, I really liked him - but I hated myself for it. He seems to be a good guy... but then he is cheating on his wife. His wife who, based on her descriptions, I am picturing as a plain worn-out middle age lady in mom jeans and orthopedic shoes. So while I didn't get a flattering image of her, she seemed like a good mom and a good person in general. For all intents and purposes, it seems that Vince's only problem with his marriage was that he lazily fell into it because he dated his wife since high school and and they never looked for anything else. So I felt bad for his wife, and that made me feel guilty for liking Vince. Of course, this aspect may have purposeful because it made me identify with Meredith even more as she was feeling that healthy dose of guilt herself.

The book ends on a cliffhanger, and that cliffhanger is extended in the excerpt for the next book at the end. I will definitely read that second book because I have to know what happens. I think that speaks well to Ms. Freed's writing ability, to take such an utterly depressing subject matter and make us want to read it anyway. I can't remember being this conflicted by a book before. Though I think this series is going to be major marriage deterrent and birth control for my fragile single psyche:
We were all floating around in the same boat. Some of us medicating ourselves with pain pills, some with alcohol, and some with or without food, or spending money we didn't have, but all of us were trying to surface from our self-imposed drowning.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Update:  It's been several days since I finished this book and I am still thinking about it.  That does not usually happen to me. This book left me so conflicted on a personal level - everything that happened felt very real. In fact, this is probably one of the most realistic books that I have read in this genre. I think Eliza Freed is an excellent writer and I am going to check out some of her other books. If you are looking for something realistic and thought-provoking, you should give this one a try.

About the Author

Eliza Freed graduated from Rutgers University and returned to her hometown in rural South Jersey. Her mother encouraged her to take some time and find herself. After three months of searching, she began to bounce checks and her neighbors began to talk; her mother told her to find a job.

She settled into Corporate America, learning systems and practices and the bureaucracy that slows them. Eliza quickly discovered her creativity and gift for story telling as a corporate trainer and spent years perfecting her presentation skills and studying diversity. It’s during this time she became an avid observer of the characters we meet and the heartaches we endure. Her years of study have taught her laughter is the key to survival, even when it’s completely inappropriate. 

She currently lives in New Jersey with her family and a misbehaving beagle named Odin. An avid swimmer, if Eliza is not with her family and friends, she’d rather be underwater. While she enjoys many genres, she has always been a sucker for a love story…the more screwed up the better. 


Faraway Series

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