Thursday, August 22, 2013

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Kate Baron is an overworked lawyer at a top firm. Fifteen years earlier she found herself pregnant by a man she didn’t like, much less love, and decided to keep the baby despite pressure from her mother to do otherwise. Kate’s relationship with her daughter is sometime strained because Kate works long hours, but Amelia is a bright girl who never gets into trouble and is well liked by her teachers.
In the middle of an important meeting with an even more important client, Kate is interrupted by her secretary. The dean at Amelia’s private high school is on the phone. Amelia has been caught cheating and has been suspended, and Kate needs to pick her up immediately. Kate can’t believe it. Any kind of misbehavior seems so out of character for her daughter. Kate leaves her infuriated client to a coworker and takes the subway to the school. She’d told the dean she’d be there in 20 minutes; instead, she arrives an hour and 15 minutes later. She sees firefighters and paramedics, but no one seems to be in a hurry. She begins to panic, and then she is met by a detective. Amelia, he tells her, is dead. She fell from the roof of the school.
The rest of Reconstructing Amelia is told by Kate, in flashbacks and in the present, by postings on an anonymous blog about the students at the school, by facebook postings and texts between Kate and others, and by Amelia in flashback narratives. Amelia’s death is ruled a suicide, but Kate receives an anonymous text: “Amelia didn’t jump.”
I had trouble putting Reconstructing Amelia down. I wanted to know where the plot was going next. There are a lot of characters and a lot of distracting incidents, a lot of red herrings that lead nowhere and a lot of dropped clues that may or may not be important later. The mystery and plot are well constructed; I guessed some of the bombshells but was wrong about others.
There are many secrets in this book – secret school clubs, secret hazing rituals, secrets from the past, secrets about sexuality, secrets about who is anonymously sending texts and writing blog posts, and I wanted to know the answers to all of them.
Reconstructing Amelia would be a great book for a plane ride or an afternoon at the beach. It reminded me of last year’s blockbuster Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (although I liked the characters in Reconstructing Amelia a lot more). It’s not destined to become a classic, and it’s not a book I could read and enjoy more than once. But I found it an engrossing read, and I recommend it to those who like psychological fiction.

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