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See How Small

See How Small: A Novel - Scott Blackwood

One late autumn evening in a Texas town, two strangers walk into an ice cream shop shortly before closing time. They bind up the three teenage girls who are working the counter, set fire to the shop, and disappear. See How Small tells the stories of the survivors--family, witnesses, and suspects--who must endure in the wake of atrocity. Justice remains elusive in their world, human connection tenuous.

Hovering above the aftermath of their deaths are the three girls. They watch over the town and make occasional visitations, trying to connect with and prod to life those they left behind. "See how small a thing it is that keeps us apart," they say. A master of compression and lyrical precision, Scott Blackwood has surpassed himself with this haunting, beautiful, and enormously powerful new novel. (source)

 

I recently received an invitation to a beta membership of Book of the Month Club (www.bookofthemonth.com). Even though my time to read has been limited, I was super excited to accept - the beta membership includes 3 months of free books before you decide if you want to upgrade to a full membership at $15/month. Well, obviously I'm not going to turn down 3 free books. You get to pick one from a small selection that the club chooses each month, and the book that I chose for April was this: See How Small by Scott Blackwood. It's apparently very loosely based on a real murder that's still unsolved. In Blackwood's version, three girls who work at an ice cream shop in Texas are murdered, and then Blackwood revisits the town five years later. 

 

I think that this book had the bones of a really fantastic crime novel. It has an intriguing premise and Blackwood is, in my opinion, a skilled wordsmith. Some of the phrasing that he used in this book was so elegant; it was a treat to read, in that sense. Unfortunately, you need more than a great premise and a way with words to get to a great story: you need storytelling talent, too. From what I've seen in this book, that's something that Blackwood lacks, which is really unfortunate. 

 

The story is told from multiple points of view. Off of the top of my head, we get to see the perspectives of the girls who were murdered, the mother of two of them, the firefighter who found them, the getaway car driver, a man suffering from PTSD who's basically regarded as the "town loon" by his neighbors, and a reporter. I'm pretty sure there were more that that, but I can't remember. In any case, all of these narrators made the story very difficult to follow. Their perspectives were disjointed, and the story not only shifted narrators, but also chronology. It was very hard to follow and to be completely honest, by the halfway point, I was reading just for the sake of finishing the book, which is never a good situation. 

 

I think that part of the problem was that Blackwood wanted to tell the story of an unsolved murder, and it's really hard to make a crime novel feel complete when you never get to learn who the murderers are. I'm sure that it can be done, but I have yet to read such a book (I admit that I read very few crime novels). Ultimately, I was really disappointed by this book. I very much hope that the next book I request from BOTM club will be better - the next one I've chosen sounds like a historical fiction Jack the Ripper type of story, which sounds interesting. I'm also a bit concerned that the two books that I've gravitated to for this have been about murders, haha - that's usually not my taste at all! Anyway, I don't really recommend this book. It really didn't do anything for me, and I can't really think of a circumstance that would have made me enjoy it. So I guess my recommendation is stay away? Disappointing.