Monday, November 1, 2010
Gwen Raines is a thirty-something housewife with a loving husband and two small children. One sunny afternoon, Gwen makes a pit stop while running errands to pick up a small bag of marijuana for an upcoming trip. On her way home, Gwen is involved in a serious accident that leaves an elderly gentleman dead, and she is questioned by the police. When they decide to perform a drug test on Gwen, her perfectly ordered life beings to take a hideous turn. Meanwhile, Gwen's husband Brian, who works in the marketing department of a pharmaceutical company, is having a moral and ethical quandary of his own. It seems that one of his company's new drugs is being marketed as an off-label weight loss aid, and recent studies have come to light that pose problems for Brian and his company. On the other side of town, Jude Gates, the old friend whom Gwen scored the bag of marijuana from, is dancing towards the edge. Jude, a restaurant owner and father of a teenage daughter, is getting himself deeper and deeper into a world of drug trafficking that puts both his safety and future at critical risk, and his time is running out. Taut with emotional highs and psychological suspense, Stash tells the story of a group of people trapped in the gray areas between right and wrong, and the decisions that they must make when they are backed against the wall.
I have to say that I loved this book! I was surprised at how gripping it was and how involved I became in the handful of moral conundrums it presented to me. The book started off rather sedately but quickly amped up and was rollicking along at a good clip by the end of the first section. There was a lot going on, with multiple levels of intrigue and suspense scattered throughout the careful and tenebrous plot.
The position Gwen got herself into at the beginning of the book is one I think many people will relate to and understand. Gwen is not a bad person or a criminal, yet she takes an unnecessary risk and all hell breaks loose on her. Gwen was easy to sympathize with. A stay-at-home mother and member of the PTA, she didn't expressly invite danger into her life; she only wanted to let her hair down and be able to smoke a bit while she was away on vacation. What happened to Gwen was terrifying because it could happen to anyone. Though her misdeed was slight, the repercussions were life changing and severe. Gwen's happy and ordered existence was left hanging by a thread, and she seemed to make a lot of unwise decisions once this happened.
The plight of Brian's ethical conflict was more restrained, and I felt, a little less successful. Brian had a responsibility to the community in the marketing of his new drug that he swept under the table and shrugged off, posing problems for not only his career but for the unwitting people who began taking his medicine for an off-label use. I liked Brian and found him resourceful and committed to both his work and his family but I didn't understand his decision to hide the things that he did regarding the drug and its uses. Once the seriousness of the problem came to light, Brian redirected himself into doing the right thing, and I was glad for him. Brian and Gwen were both dealing with the same type of problem, only in very different arenas, and through all of it, they remained a unit focused on the outcome, sometimes sacrificing their own morals in order to get to that particular outcome.
Through the book's focus on Jude things began to take a darker turn. He seemed like a moral and upstanding guy, but as I read about him I became aware that Jude was a very shady character. He had various sides to his personality and was a good father, but he erased a lot of that goodness through manipulation and throwing his weight in undesirable directions. The thing is, I liked Jude. I liked his charm and his edginess, and I wanted so much for him to do the right thing and make a clean break from this kind of life. I think Jude wanted that too but was swept away by greed and the kinds of relationships that it can be sticky to get out of. Jude had a good heart, but his perception of right and wrong was very skewed, and this kept me in turmoil while reading about him. He was obviously a man with demons, but there existed in Jude a lot of benevolence and altruism. His was a case of a good man doing very bad things for a convincing reason, but that reason just wasn't convincing enough for me, so I was constantly at war with myself about my reactions to him.
This book presents a lot of tough questions for the reader to puzzle out for themselves. What happens when a good person does something illegal? What happens when this same action is done by someone with more sinister leanings? Is there really any distinction between the two? This book made me look at some familiar situations in a new way and made me wonder just what my friends and neighbors could be hiding behind closed doors. It made me wonder about the stringency of the law and the unintended repercussions that could take place when people try to creep over the edge of it. Mostly, it made me think about the unpredictability of life and the way that one action can change everything and leave you an outcast in the community that once respected and valued you.
Though I didn't expect it, this book really crept up on me and kept me avidly turning the pages until its explosive conclusion. It's really a much deeper story than I had first believed and has given me a lot of food for thought. It also started a lot of conversations in my house about the ideas that it so eloquently expresses. I think this book is a must for those who love psychological suspense novels as well as those who like quiet thrillers, and I am so glad to have gotten the chance to devour it. A complex and thought provoking read. Recommended.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.
Posted by Zibilee at 8:00 AM