Unbecoming: A Novel

22571781Author: Rebecca Scherm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: more-please,  realistic-fiction, recipe-for-awesomesauce

A major new debut thriller about a daring art heist, a cat-and-mouse waiting game, 
and a small-town girl's mesmerizing transformation

 On the grubby outskirts of Paris, Grace restores bric-a-brac, mends teapots, 
re-sets gems. She calls herself Julie, says she’s from California, and slips back 
to a rented room at night. Regularly, furtively, she checks the hometown paper on 
the Internet. Home is Garland, Tennessee, and there, two young men have just been 
paroled. One, she married; the other, she’s in love with. Both were jailed for a 
crime that Grace herself planned in exacting detail. The heist went bad—but not 
before she was on a plane to Prague with a stolen canvas rolled in her bag. And 
so, in Paris, begins a cat-and-mouse waiting game as Grace’s web of deception 
and lies unravels—and she becomes another young woman entirely.

Unbecoming is an intricately plotted and psychologically nuanced heist novel 
that turns on suspense and slippery identity. With echoes of Alfred Hitchcock 
and Patricia Highsmith, Rebecca Scherm’s mesmerizing debut is sure to entrance 
fans of Gillian Flynn, Marisha Pessl, and Donna Tartt.

First book I’ve read and finished in a long while so I’m wholly, incorrigibly grateful to someone.

Unbecoming A Novel tries to get across as a novel of grandiose, I think, but inside is a story in complete contrast. The characters try to come off as players in the major leagues, but their dynamics are simpler, motivations clearer than you’d expect. There’s a twisted sort of homeliness,- or longing for it – as opposed to mind-fucks and coziness, that worked for me. It’s where the genius lies.

The story is split into two parts, past and present. For a greater part of the novel, ‘present’ sets up only the mental and physical surrounding of Julie as stories, backgrounds, histories and action opens up in the ‘past’ chapters in the life of Grace. There’s a ring of contrariness that consecutive chapters set up because of the difference in what time of the same character – Julie actually being Grace – that actually mitigates any sort of disorientation that comes from reading stories written in such manner.

The first lie Grace ever told Hanna was her name.

Suspense builds up in one part while there’s the lull of relatively normal life and unwarranted anticipation born of guilt that is a part of it. When we are finally done with the past and we get to what was behind the beginning of the story, the ‘present’ chapters come to the forefront and everything materializes.

Grace was a lonely, neglected girl (aren’t they all?) when she fell in love with Riley. Riley opened the gate for her to his family – his mother, Mrs Graham. Slowly, this love evolves and changes and becomes confused. It’s not love for Riley anymore but the sense of belonging and family that being with him brings about. She becomes the daughter Mrs Graham never had. Mrs Graham is the kind of mother Grace never had. And as this childhood love for Riley morphs, as she falls for another, the harder she tries to hold on, doing whatever to keep a hold of/on him. There is Alls, the biggest temptation. And she realizes that Mrs Graham may not be that mother at all.

Fast forward three years, Julie lives in Paris while the two main characters of her childhood – Riley, her husband, and his best friend, her lover, Alls – are finally let out on parole.

Grace goes through many changes during the course of her story, on the way to becoming Julie. There are precursors obvious enough but the changes are gradual processes that change her perception, what she sees and was unwilling to see before. Only one thing is constant, despite what may come: her longing to be Mrs Graham’s, truly. And these transformations of characters were the bestest thing of all.

So… this is a basic love triangle kind of story, in a way since the kinds of love differ, which leads to disastrous consequences.

Yet for me, consequences and everything weren’t the important part. There are three characters – Grace, Alls, Hanna – and the lengths one may go to fool oneself. There are nuances to them but they’re still actually simple, and by that I don’t mean lacking in anything. They’re all different and as unhinged, fucked-up or psychotic at least the first two try to be, their motivations are easy to figure out and understand. Yet that causes intrigue all of its own.

Unbecoming A Novel is kind of psychological in its own way, but more than that, it’s a character study. If you can get into Grace, you will enjoy this story, simple as that.

But there are other aspects to consider: Scherm’s writing is grrrr-reat. I mean, it’s totally palatable but maintains a kind of class and insight. It doesn’t exactly resonate but comes close to it.

The only thing that miffed me a bit was the turn that the story took towards the end. It seemed too easy, too wonderful but comes along a conclusion rife with bitterness and want, ending it all on a purr-fect note. I’m still miffed, though.

But yay for this book! I’d LOVE it if you LOVE this book. It’s a intriguing, fantastic book, just sizzling in anticipation of your readership. Ohh do read it! Even if you slightly like it, I won’t hate you. Don’t let that cover turn you off; it looks much better in reality.

Song pairing, kind of but not exact: Dance Little Liars by The Arctic Monkeys

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4 thoughts on “Unbecoming: A Novel

  1. I love novels that go philosophical and becomes a study of oneself and therefore a study of humanity (or something like that). Reminds me of Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (it’s way fucking awesome, you should read it if you haven’t yet… have you already? I forget 😛 ). Will try this one!

    Faye at The Social Potato

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