Book Review & Recommendation: 'A Small Indiscretion' by Jan Ellison

It's been a while since I posted a full book review here on the blog. Well, today's the day. I'm so excited to gush about the book I just finished. And I'm so excited to hear what some of you think when you hopefully read the book and send me an email to gush about it, too. (I really should get a book club going around here, shouldn't I?)

Jan Ellison's debut novel A Small Indiscretion arrived in my mailbox just in time for the holiday weekend. I started it on Christmas Eve and wrapped it up four days later. I read it curled up at the end of my grandma's couch, sitting at the dinner table as family arrived for dinner, and on a lazy Sunday morning while the boyfriend played video games. I just couldn't put it down.

I recommend reading this book in a comfy chair with a cup of tea or glass of dark beer nearby. Playing a bit of Damien Rice would make for a perfect reading soundtrack.

Click through for my review:

From the back cover:

A Small Indiscretion fixes an unflinching eye on the power of desire and the danger of obsession as it unfolds the story of one woman’s reckoning with a youthful mistake. 
At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in her washed-out hometown for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and yearning for deliverance. Some two decades later, she is married to a good man and settled in San Francisco, with a son and two daughters and a successful career designing artistic interior lights. One June morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, igniting an old longing and setting off a chain of events that rock the foundations of her marriage and threaten to overturn her family’s hard-won happiness. 
The novel moves back and forth across time between San Francisco in the present and that distant winter in Europe. The two worlds converge and explode when the adult Annie returns to London seeking answers, her indiscretions come to light, and the phone rings with shocking news about her son. Now Annie must fight to save her family by piecing together the mystery of her past—the fateful collision of liberation and abandon and sexual desire that drew an invisible map of her future. 
A Small Indiscretion is a riveting debut novel about a woman’s search for understanding and forgiveness, a taut exploration of a modern marriage, and of love—the kind that destroys, and the kind that redeems.

My Review, in short:

loved it. I couldn't put it down. (It's not often I devour a book in four days.) And I highly recommend it to you if you're looking for an engrossing, multifaceted story that combines drama, mystery, and romance with beautiful, graceful, and believable writing. It's the story of a woman's past secrets coming back to haunt her. And there's nothing cliche about it.

Reading this involved going a little off the beaten path. I usually read historical fiction, but I'm so glad I tried something different. I gave it 5 stars over at Goodreads.

My Review, in full:

I knew this story was going to be something different from the first page. It's uniquely told from Annie's point-of-view to her son. It slips between the present, the recent, and flashbacks going twenty years back. It's as riveting as it is relatable. We all have our little indiscretions. While yours and mine may not match Annie's, it's easy enough to put yourself in Annie's shoes – though they're not a comfortable place to be. The truth is that when we look back at our past, we're looking back through a fog. Memory isn't always the truth. Feelings in-the-moment can't always be accurately remembered or re-imagined decades later. 

Overwhelmed by family drama and underwhelmed by college, Annie thinks she'll find herself in London. She finds so much more. A job that makes her feel useful. A doting older man. The freedom to make mistakes. A man she comes to love; a man she becomes obsessed with. Strangers at bars who fill the emptiness in her life while bartenders fill her empty glass. She navigates strained romances and tangled affairs as she figures out what she thinks she wants.

In the present, Annie has come into her own. She's built the life that she may not have known that she wanted at twenty, but which she wants and is invested in now: a happy marriage, healthy children, and a fulfilling career she's created by designing light fixtures out of salvaged materials. But when that photo from her past appears, all of that hangs in the balance of her choices. What she believes to be a small indiscretion is a life changer for the ones she loves. And what they see as small indiscretions are the moments that she didn't know were shaping her life.

A Small Indiscretion is a complex story – simply told, gracefully written, and easy to follow. It's easy to get caught up in – believable, relatable, and capable of being so close to our own story or the story of a friend, sister, or mother. Annie could be any of us. And it's all at once romantic, heart-aching, scary, tragic, liberating, and full of hope. 

It's a drama. It's a romance. It's a mystery. When the real shocker comes later in the book, I was caught off guard by the shivers that went up my neck. So expertly crafted, the unexpected twist took my breath away. I had to go back and re-read the reveal a few times to believe it. And it tied the story together perfectly.

Like all page-turners, I only wish this novel would have kept going and going. I became attached to Annie, her present family, and her past romances. The loose ends of life aren't always tied up – in a perfect bow or sometimes at all. True to life, some words remain unspoken, feelings unexpressed, and mysteries unsolved. I'd absolutely love to hear the story from some of the other character's perspectives. And I'll absolutely be on the lookout for future books by Jan Ellison.

Get yourself a copy:

A Small Indiscretion hits bookstore shelves on January 20, 2015, but you can pre-order it on Amazon here or order from other sources on Jan Ellison's website.

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Disclaimer: This paid Blog Book Tour was in collaboration with Random House and 20 Something BloggersI received a free advance reader's edition of A Small Indiscretion from Random House. I read the book in its entirety and all thoughts and opinions are my own.


Unknown said...

What a great review! I was chosen for the blog tour on my blog, as well, and really enjoyed it, too. It's always so interesting to see how other people feel about the same books!


Jessica • The Lovely Side said...

Thanks, Liz! I agree! I especially enjoy seeing what bloggers (rather than professional book critics) have to say about books. I look forward to checking out your review and your blog! :)

Camille said...

Oh sounds like a good read, I'm gonna have to check it out! :)

Jessica • The Lovely Side said...

You should! And let me know what you think. :) This book is perfect book club material. I can't stop talking about it. ;)

Info site for Water Main Repair said...

“Rich and detailed . . . The plot explodes delightfully, with suspense and a few twists. Using second-person narration and hypnotic prose, Ellison’s debut novel is both juicy and beautifully written. How do I know it’s juicy? A stranger started reading it over my shoulder on the New York City subway, and told me he was sorry that I was turning the pages too quickly.