Rebecca Scherm’s Unbecoming is a dark and intimate tale full of emotion, lies, excitement and deception. The novel bends through time and elaborates how sometimes a heavy past, and the people in it, are never far away from the future no matter how much one tries to escape. Grace, also known as Julie, the book’s main character has been trying to escape her past and the people she left behind in Garland, Tennessee by fleeing to Europe and essentially going off the grid. Grace’s lies however, are not as buried as she thinks and as the novel moves along, she chips away at her secrets and reveals more and more about herself.
Grace and Riley have been in love since they were ten and in their small town, their group consists of Riley’s friends Alls and Greg, with Grace floating in the background on the fringe. Grace is observant, smart, yet timid in ways and prefers the company of Riley and his family over her own. There seems to always be something itching Grace under her skin, something that she cannot quite reach and this will become the focus of the book as the characters grow up. Grace at first is a bit mysterious and unsure, but as her story, her sins and her motives are exposed, she becomes a more solid figure, with a shadowy underside. Grace hatches a plot for the boys to rob the Wynne House, a historical home in the area, but abandons her support of the idea and then ultimately abandons her love, her friends and her life when they are caught. Safe far away in Europe, Grace simply walks away from the only life she has known. Grace’s story, her journey and her inner demons spill out onto the surface slowly but surely as she begins to speak her version of the past to her co-worker Hanna whom she works with at a French restoration shop.
Grace’s confessions and trips back into the past fill in missing details and also make her less aloof, but they do not make her anymore relatable. Grace creates boundaries and secrets in her own life and relationships and this self-constructed barrier carries over onto the reader. There is a heavy grime that settles over the story that makes the reader push the layers off to find out more and when the past catches up to Grace in Paris an entirely new subplot begins to unfold. Rebecca Scherm bridges different times, flashbacks, deceit and multiple story lines together perfectly and the book becomes more and more suspenseful as it moves along. Unbecoming is bold, fresh, interesting and grabs the reader from the start. Rebecca Scherm lures you in to view a world you don’t feel that you are supposed to be seeing, but cannot look away.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.