Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review (and trust me, honest is always what you’ll get).
Summary: Anna is an American woman married to a Swiss man, living in Switzerland, raising her three children. From the outside looking in, it would seem that Anna has a perfect life: a beautiful family, a handsome and successful husband, friends and family, and the option to stay home and raise her children. But Anna is far from satisfied with her life.
As Anna is entering middle age, living in a foreign land with no genuine friends to speak of, an untenable grasp on the language, and an emotionally unavailable husband, Anna feels quite on her own. She is depressed and lost and bored with her life. To feel connected, to feel alive, perhaps just to have something outside of a life that she barely recognizes as her own, she engages in several elicit affairs. Her choices will lead to consequences she could never even begin to imagine, and as her life and lies begin to unravel, she finally comes to realize the part she’s had to play in her own life.
Review: I want to start by saying that this book is wonderfully written. There is no doubt whatsoever that the author has the chops, and she did an amazing job of digging into the meat of the story. And really, the story here is Anna. There are a couple of dramatic events along the way, but those are few and far between. This is a book about the inner workings of a woman who has found herself in the midst of a life that she did not imagine for herself, a woman who isn’t self-aware enough to realize why she makes the choices she does, a woman who doesn’t seem to realize that she ultimately has the power to decide what path her life will follow. And I think Essbaum does an excellent job of showing us who Anna really is.
As a middle-aged wife and mother, I had no difficulty whatsoever identifying with Anna. Would I make the choices she’s made? Certainly not. I am a very different person than she. But I can identify with where she is at in her life, and I can understand how she, or someone like her, could find their way to making such destructive choices.
Other reviewers have said they disliked Anna. I actually didn’t. She frustrated me, but I understood her. Up until the last chapter, I empathized. I cried for her, I shook my head at her choices, but I ached for her, her losses, her struggle, her desperate attempts to figure it all out. But at the end…oh, I was so angry…if I’d been reading a paperback instead of an ebook, I feel quite certain I would have thrown the book across the room. And I mean that. I would have tossed that thing across the damn room. I knew things were going to blow up in her face, but I was not expecting that ending.
At first, when I was seething inside, I was so mad that I had spent my valuable time reading this book, but as I regained my senses, I realized – a crappy book can’t rile you up like this. It just can’t. The ending may have been hard to swallow, but I was as upset as I was because I was wholly invested in Anna. And now, less than 24 hours later, I feel like there must have been signs that I missed. How could I not see it? How could I have come along on this journey with her and not know this is where we were headed? Was I as much of an ostrich as Anna? A book that makes you emotional, that makes you rail against anything, that makes you question your own perception and experience of the story? Well, that’s a book well worth reading.