Saving Meghan

The weather outside is…yeah- okay- it’s the same.

Cold and snowy and beautiful but pretty much the same as it was when we arrived in Fairbanks in December. For an example, see below:

Fortunately this means that reading is the order of the day! And what better way than to get a good book than a handy recommendation coming directly from my own Facebook feed (you know along with all of the handy articles that suddenly pop up with the same topics that I just happened to discuss with my coffee barista that very same morning- not creepy at all).

Anyway- I digress. The book recommended by my Facebook digital stalker promised to be a page turner, had a pretty decent blurb for a Facebook pop up, and the cover looked pretty (not that I judge a book solely from this checklist alone).

And so, without further ado, I give you my most recent read:

Becky Gerard is the devoted mother of Meghan, a teenager plagued by mystery illness, sudden symptoms and terrifying turns that send her racing off to the ER at any given moment. Or is she? Becky’s husband Carl has his doubts. And he’s not alone. Is Becky fighting the good fight to save Meghan’s life? Or is she a classic case of munchausen by proxy, and the reason for Meghan’s unexplained symptoms?

When Meghan’s ailments take a turn for the worse, and a new medical team becomes involved, the sinister hand of an unsuspected culprit gets a tight grip on Meghan, turning the family around and placing Becky as suspect numero uno and the losing contender in a contentious custody battle.

The question is: is Meghan ill, or not?

I had high hopes for this book. The premise is great, the writing is good for most of the book and there is great opportunity here for fantastic character development. Author D.J. Palmer laid the groundwork for all of the good things. And the start of the book has it all. Relationships failing, immediate doubts over the mother, a secret hidden by the daughter, a mystery illness, a suspicious doctor and the undeniable doubt experienced by this reader.

But the ending…

Some readers will love it. Some will hate it and I’m sorry to say I am in that second category. I don’t want to give too much away but if you are a lover of ‘shadow characters’ who emerge at the end of the book as the antagonist, if you are into psychological twists and secrets revealed, then this is for you.

The whole idea that the people who are meant to care for us the most are actually our abusers, is an absolutely terrifying notion, and definitely a catalyst for page-turning reads.

But for me the ending has three major problems:

1) The all- too- often- seen professional woman who is jaded by love and abandons all good sense, all self- preservation, all self-confidence, all pride, to take her ultimate revenge (don’t hate me too much but I cannot watch Harley Quinn for the same reasons). To me this is just so blindly unrealistic that it doesn’t make sense. Yes, I know it’s possible, we’ve seen it in the news, but the way that this character is revived again and again in literature, one would have us all believe that this type of useless, self-harming, psychotic woman is constant in our society. It’s a bad fall-to in my humble opinion because it relies upon the ‘irrational woman’ who otherwise has managed to make herself successful in life, but breaks down completely when the one relationship turns bad. It’s an overused antagonist.

2) Meghan’s relationship with her father is problematic, and so is her relationship with her mother. It was one of the better developed character and plot designs in Palmer’s book. It’s a pity that it wasn’t further developed for the climactic ending. There was room for so much more psychological depth here. A conflict between a parent who loves but harms the child, a terrible truth about a “perfect” father. A twisted family secret that could have been used so much better to formulate a cataclysmic ending. But- no. Instead the revealed secret is anti-climactic.

3) The terrible, horrible, no good ‘action movie ending.’ You know that one. I’ve spoken about it before. Action hero makes carnage on the streets of the large city, lots of collateral damage. But in the end he’s seen walking off with the girl. No police officer ready to arrest him. No inquiry. No one is worried that he’s walking the streets as a potential mass murderer. No question as to his ability to live in society. Yeah- same here. At the end of the day, they all walk off into the sunset, sans some major, yet apparently forgettable characters. No one is really mourning the family members that turn out to be collateral. There is no investigation into the widespread disregard for the law. No one questions the ethics of the medical professionals involved. Happy endings all round.

Ummm- no.

I guess that the cynical birdie on my shoulder needs to have a little more depth to book endings than that. But hey, in an effort not to be judgy, maybe you like your endings like that and if so, this is a great read for you.

If you are an R.L. Stein fan (you remember his series for teens) where the endings are twisted and slightly on the unrealistic side. Or if you like blow-em-up- consequences- be- damned action movies, then this ending is for you.

But not for me.

Character development is good. Definitely watch the mother emerge as a good example. It’s a shame that Palmer didn’t take more advantage of the unreliable narrator in Becky.

This is a 3 1/2 star read for me. I’d definitely keep an eye open for more from this author. This book was generally entertaining and great for a snowy day.

Take a read and let me know what you think.

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