“Sometimes you can tell that they are acting.” That’s what my niece said to me in the middle of a movie she chose to watch when she was having a sleepover in my house. I was advocating for Frozen, but she chose an awful movie about gymnasts in Australia and succinctly summarised its quality in that one line.
And that is very much how I felt about The Last Mrs Parrish, which I was excited to read because it was the Reese Witherspoon book club book, and I love everything she does.
Before I begin, I’ll caveat this review by saying this is an easy read, a perfect holiday page turner and has a good twist towards the end.
This book is made for television, and if it was a television show, it would be The Bold and the Beautiful or Days of Our Lives. Well, the first half at least.
The book tells the story of Amber Patterson, a young woman with her eyes on the prize…to marry Jackson Parrish. One problem, he’s already married and has two children. However, our young protagonist has a plan to erase those problems and claim her prize.
Her plan is to befriend his current wife and overthrow her. You know what they say, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
My first problem with the book is the general premise. Amber is clearly an upwardly-mobile money grabber with a very clear agenda. I think if that were my goal in life, I would pick a softer touch or an older man. Surely going after a single, rich man who has no life complications would make more sense? Or, go the sugar daddy route, embed yourself in his life as it’s coming to an end, go along with things for a few years but, ultimately still have your life to yourself, along with all their wealth. (I’m as terrified by my own planning on this as you no doubt are.)
With her plan in place, Amber sets about finding out everything she needs to know about Jackson with the goal of making herself the perfect woman for him. She inserts herself into the Parrish’s lives in a way I would have found claustrophobic. Her probing of Daphne is anything but subtle. This is where you can tell they were acting. I felt the author* oversold this. She would describe the antics of Amber and then remind you that this was all part of her evil plan. Alright already, I get it, she’s a sly bitch, I don’t need it spelled out for me on every page.
Then comes the twist, which I won’t talk about, but the book takes on a much darker veneer in the second half. It gets sexy, but not in a good way! I had recommended the book to my mother before I got to this part and then I had to quickly issue a parental warning.
The book is really a lesson in the age-old adage: The grass is always greener on the other side. And, the message that you can never truly know what goes on behind closed doors. We end of the book opens the door to the reader of a life of domestic abuse, both emotional and physical. At times, it’s tough to read and, I think, many people working with victims of abuse would take issue with how the topic is handled.
Overall, I would give this a pass, unless you’re very short on books to read.
*On an interesting side note, the book is a joint effort by sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine who live in different states and write under the pen name Liv Constantine.