Andrea Oliver’s mother, Laura, is a quintessential small-town mom. She lives a quiet but happy life in beachside Belle Isle. She’s a pillar of the community: a speech therapist, business owner, and everybody’s friend.
She’s never kept a secret from anyone.
Or has she?
Andrea and Laura are caught in a violent attack at a restaurant in a local shopping mall. Laura comes to Andrea’s aid in a manner that renders her unrecognizable to her own daughter. As though she is a completely different person.
In reality, that’s because she was. Thirty years ago before Andrea, before her quiet life in Belle Isle.
Laura is initially hailed as a hero for her actions. But 24 hours later she is hospitalized after being shot by an intruder who’s spent decades trying to track her down.
What is Laura trying to keep hidden? As elements of the past return and put them both in danger, Andrea is left to piece together clues to Laura’s former identity and discover the truth – for better or worse – about her mother. Could the gentle, loving woman who raised her be a violent killer?
What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all?
Karin Slaughter is a master storyteller who skillfully sets up a mystery featuring seemingly ordinary people, and delivers clues to the truth at expertly-timed intervals crafted with precision to propel the story forward and hold her reader’s interest. Pieces of Her is another fast-paced, compelling thriller from the international best-selling author.
Andrea Oliver is drifting. She failed to complete her degree in theater arts or establish a thriving career. Before she moved back home to assist her mother, Laura, as she struggled to survive cancer, she was floundering in New York. Now she’s working as a police dispatcher and is mistaken for a police officer when a deranged gunman opens fire in a restaurant. As if the attack isn’t shocking enough, Andrea is stunned when her mother takes charge of the scene with amazing calm and reserve. And then gives Andrea specific instruction about what not to say to the police. And orders Andrea to move out of the garage apartment on Laura’s property. Immediately.
Laura had always believed — vehemently, with great conviction — that the only way to change the world was to destroy it.
Before Andrea can process those events, she overhears an intruder’s conversation with her mother. Once again, Laura’s composure does not waiver, even as she is again give Andrea specific instructions. To run. And stop at a storage unit where she will find a vehicle with which to do so. Once Andrea navigates her way to that storage facility, she finds much more than a vintage vehicle that appears to have barely been driven. She learns that the vehicle is registered to a woman whose name she has never heard before with a Canadian address and her mother stores a lot more than the car in that facility. Andrea is also certain that she is being followed, but has no idea why.
Thus begins Andrea’s pulse-pounding adventure — a journey across several state lines during which she meets people from her mother’s past and gradually learns the truth about Laura’s life before Andrea’s birth, as well as her own history as she comes to realize that everything her mother told her as she was growing up was fiction. Slaughter says that to her, “the mysteries aren’t so much about what happened, or whodunnit. It’s more about who are these people? Andy’s trip, like Laura’s, is a trip of self-discovery.”
Slaughter’s alternating chapters detail Andrea’s contemporary experiences and the events that took place in 1986 when Laura had a different name, career, and a mission at odds with the woman she later became. Her family’s history and dysfunction are explored, as are the strengths and weaknesses of character that propelled Laura to became involved and align herself with a group of individuals determined to bring about change. Slaughter reveals that Laura was not an unwilling participant, although she was young, gullible, and lacking in self-esteem. Much like Andrea. She was taken in by a man with plenty of charisma, but nothing good to offer her or anyone else. And she has spent every day since the events that unfolded more than 30 years ago living with the consequences, among them an inability to be her authentic self. “She had dozens, even hundreds, of friends, but not one single person knew all of the pieces of her.”
Slaugher’s characters are complex, deeply flawed, and, bluntly, sometimes difficult to care about, much less relate to. But the are always fascinating and intriguing, even as they are engaging in behaviors that are ill-conceived and, worse, downright despicable. Are they redeemable? Readers will have to decide for themselves. They are undeniably products of their upbringings and environments. Laura was surrounded by tragedy as a young woman and then shrouded her daughter in deception and lies. All of Andrea’s life she has told her, “Everything I’ve ever done is for you . . . Everything.” Who was she really trying to protect? Herself or her daughter? Laura Slaughter keeps readers guessing about the full truth right up to the riveting, clever, and extremely satisfying conclusion.
Slaughter always delivers an engrossing and thought-provoking story — and Pieces of Her is no exception.
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