Smith’s standalone, inspired by the real-life mass murder of a family in 1980s Seattle, follows the fateful adventures of fictional WWII hero Cal Kusek and his wife Betsy, who, unhappy in 1950 Manhattan, seek greener pastures for their children, Jo and Lance, on a ranch in Rapid City, South Dakota. Though a very blue family in very red state, they manage to find happiness until Cal, a lawyer as well as a rancher, is urged to run for the U.S. Senate. His opponent, Thaddeus Hayes, is a deceptively friendly, fear-spreading loudmouth liar who tries to turn the town and the state against Cal and Betsy. His careless use of the word “traitor” tips over the first in a long line of dominoes that eventually leads to the 1985 spree killing that bookends the novel. Reader McClain, a Daytime Emmy Award–winning actress, initially establishes a solemn mood, with the adult Jo returning to her hometown after the murders. When the plot hops back to the ’50s, with the Kuseks meeting their new friends and neighbors, some with distinctive rural accents, McClain switches to a more upbeat tone, and she expresses more extreme emotion during the family’s highs and lows. McClain provides the faux good ole boy Hayes and another key antagonist, a sociopath slacker with the memorable moniker Honeybee Jones, with voices that ring with villainy. A Knopf hardcover. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 04/24/2017 Genre: Audio
Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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