Posted in Book review, Books, Box of Stories, Reading, Thriller

The Pocket Wife – Susan Crawford

Hey guys!

How are you all? I hope summer is treating you beautifully. I’m having the best time – reading, exploring, holidaying. We’re so lucky to be able to experience everything we’ve got on offer right now. It sounds like such a cliche but I’m so grateful for what I have right now. I’ve had some wonderful quality time with my family and I’ve made a big dent in my TBR pile. (They have since been replaced by books purchased from various days out but we won’t say too much more on that matter…)

Today I want to share with you a book that I couldn’t put down or stop thinking about. For those of you who have followed me for a while, you’ll know how much I love my psychological thrillers and this one did not disappoint. I got The Pocket Wife in one of my book subscription boxes. I’d never heard of it and didn’t know anything about it. Regardless, I read this book in a few hours. It was that good. Most importantly, it was one of those books where I just had to find out what happened. It kept me guessing until the penultimate chapter. I have to confess, I didn’t manage to work this one out! Don’t worry – no spoilers here! I hope you enjoy reading my review!

What’s it all about?

Centred around Dana Catrell and her husband Peter, we are at once given an unreliable narrator. Why? Dana has bipolar disorder. She lives at home whilst her husband is the high flying attorney. As a result, he hasn’t a clue about the deterioration of Dana because he isn’t there to notice the changes in her mood and character. This change is worsened with their son’s move to college.

We awkwardly see Dana move between the bleakest depression to manic euphoria. There is no way to know which side of that she will fall on each and every day. On a particularly down day, Dana pops to see her neighbour, Celia. The women talk and Celia is only too aware of the mental health issues faced by Dana. Dana discloses to her that she feels like she is treated incorrectly, like she’s a ‘pocket wife’ and that she doesn’t exist. The crux of it is, she feels alone and rejected. Celia understands and listens.

“She and Celia were friends, neighbours, sharing piecrust recipes and gossip and yard-sale outings, an occasional languid conversation over coffee or an afternoon trek through the mall with bags in hand. But not secrets. Not until today.”

On a subsequent visit, Dana tells Celia that she is becoming increasingly convinced that Peter is having an affair. He leaves to talk on the phone and constantly finds excuses to leave the house. Like any good friend, Celia checks that Dana is taking her medication as well as seeing her psychologist. She believes it is best that she talks about those fears with someone who is trained and who can give the best advice. Dana discloses that she has opted for alcohol rather than medication thus adding to the unreliability of her narrative.

“There were times over the years when her demons won out, when she wore her lipstick too dark, her mascara too heavy, her dressed too short.”

Regardless, Celia offers Dana wine and the pair of women spend the afternoon together. They chat and enjoy each other’s company but it isn’t long until Dana is drunk. Celia tries to show her a photograph on her phone but Dana passes out before she can make any sense of it. What does this photograph show? When she wakes up, she sees that she is back within the confines of her own house. More worryingly, she learns that Celia has been murdered.

As the last person to see Celia alive, this puts Dana in quite a difficult position. She obsessively tries to put the memories together of the previous night but she struggles. Her frustration with herself only makes the task more impossible. Ultimately, her biggest fear is that because she has a key, she went back over there and killed her. Dana has very little recollection about where she’s been or what she has done.

The one factor that Dana keeps returning to is the photograph. It is the one image that is returned to repeatedly through the novel. It’s what the plot is hung off. Dana believes (or persuades herself) that the photograph she wanted to show her must have something to do with her death. She doesn’t trust her husband at all so talking with him is out of the question. She makes the decision to try and work this one out for herself. When the lead detective, Jack Moss, arrives to ask some routine questions, Dana sees this as an opportunity to get some help from him.

For Moss, his own personal life is somehow mixed into this case too. When he gets the return back on the fingerprints they ran, he didn’t expect to see the fingerprints of his own son, Kyle, on the report. Both Moss and Dana now each have something they want to hide which impacts the progress of the case. Prosecutor, Lenora White, is constantly applying pressure to Moss to make an arrest and get the case solved.

Following this, Dana discovers Celia’s mobile number stored on Peter’s mobile. In her heightened emotional state she worries because he’s told her that he only knows her in passing. Yet, his phone tells a different story. When she looks at the same phone later the number has been removed. This reinforces to her that something is going on and that Peter is potentially hiding something from her. Let’s not forget her emotional state though. Everything is already heightened and distorted.

“Not only are her memories of Celia’s actions on that afternoon a sham, but memories of her own as well. She gets up quickly, before the ceiling covers her, before the walls enfold her, crush her.”

Meanwhile, Dana manages to remember who was in the photograph on Celia’s phone: another woman. She manages to get Celia’s phone but this time the photograph has been deleted. This leads her to the horror and believe that she could have made the whole thing up or imagined seeing it there. She is certain she’s going crazy. She soon falls into another manic state but this time she chooses to use this to help her solve the case.

During his own enquiry, Moss learns that Kyle knows Celia as he was one of her students. He is certain that there’s a rational explanation for his fingerprints to be at her house. His son isn’t a murderer. But if he isn’t, who is? Celia is still dead. Increasing pressure comes from Lenora who wants the case wrapped up.

Evidence is found which then shows things in a very different light. Moss has a duty to investigate and does so. By the end of the novel, the murderer is revealed as well as their motive. After all, forensics don’t lie.

What about Dana? Well, she accepts that she needs help with her mental illness but also now acknowledges that her marriage is also a sham. Everything is tied up neatly by the end of the novel leaving the reader wholly satisfied.

“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whisper.” ‘No, she thinks, it wasn’t a whisper; it was something else.’

Final Thoughts

For fans of The Girl on the Train, this book is a pacy little number that will keep you guessing until the end. I particularly found the writing surrounding the bipolar incredibly shocking. Psychologists at the time of publication found Crawford’s description accurate and sound. For me, that makes it authentic. We have a character who is clearly flawed but is desperate to know if she has killed someone in a manic state where she has no recollection of it. In that sense it’s incredible emotive. It also means we have a highly unreliable narrator. Can we believe anything she says or is it all a delusion?

Anyway, I loved this little book. It has everything a thriller should have and more. You’ll have to read it to find out who really killed her and why.

I’ll be back next time with my review of my August book as well as my round up for August. I can’t wait to catch up with you all then!

Big love all xxxx

Posted in Book review, Books, Box of Stories, Reading, Romance

Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged – Ayisha Malik

Hello Lovely Blogging Friends!

September already… I genuinely can’t quite believe it. I’m embracing the calm before the storm and returning to school. I know that teaching now will be completely different to how it’s ever been before but I want the best for my students. I’m making the most of the time I’ve got now reading the never ending TBR pile and catching up with you amazing people.

Today I want to share with you a book I got from a random book box (find out about the super Box of Stories family here.) I’ve ordered three boxes over summer and I’ve finished the first box of four books. I love this website because you get books you’ve never thought of and it challenges you to read things you may not always consider.

Anyway, one of the BEST books I’ve read this year has come from there and it is this book I want to share with you all today. Sofia Khan is Not Obliged – by Ayisha Malik. I really hope you love it as much as I did.

What’s it all about?

This book is so current and relatable for so many people that I just had to share it. The book follows the protagonist, Sofia Khan, a Muslim girl living in London with all her dating dramas. She’s so funny and genuine, I adored her character from the start.

The first relationship she shares with us is between her and her boyfriend, Imran. He asks her to move in with his family, in a house connected to theirs via a connecting door. Sofia is completely not interested in that style of life, living in a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ type home. This inevitably brings the relationship to a close as neither party are willing to budge.

Well, I had to choose between God and a bunch of sales execs. I carried on praying, of course.

The following love interest is Naim, but this raises further complications for Sofia. Pressure is a constant from her family who want her to follow tradition and get married. Everyone else is doing it, after all!

One day on the tube to work, Sofia is called a terrorist by a man she accidentally bumps into. Unfortunately, despite her shock and anger, the train departs again before she’s able to do anything.

Nevertheless, Sofia continues to make her way to work, a little bruised from the run in with the ignorant man. When she arrives at her publishing job, there’s yet another meeting. This time, she ends up being the centre of attention and it is decided that she will write a book all about dating and her experiences of dating as a British Muslim. Although a little reluctant, her friends support her and also feature in the book – friends like Suj who is dating someone different to her and Hannah who has decided to enter a polygamous marriage. The range of different relationships explored are the perfect way to challenge conventions that we are used to.

Sofia also manages to build an unlikely friendship with her tattooed next door neighbour, Conall. During the furious wedding chat and life planning, he provides Sofia strength and refuge that she so desperately needs. Most importantly, she can use his place to write. After all, the book isn’t going to write itself.

Later, Sofia’s dad has a heart attack which knocks her immensely. All her wants is to see her married and settled so Sofia decides to marry Imran after all. She thinks that this is the way to make her dad better and her family happy.

There’s frenzied excitement as the family get ready for the marriage. Sofia thought she would be feeling more but the happiness of her family is of most importance to her. Meanwhile, Conall informs her that he is going to Afghanistan for three months. She notices that this news has a strange effect on her – she’s desperately sad but buries it in wedding things. Imran reveals to her that he expects her to take his name, something that she vehemently is against. This really calls time on the relationship. It isn’t what she wants or needs right now. She was going into it for the wrong reasons. She calls off the wedding, considering telling her parents at a later date.

Back at work and with a final draft written, Sofia attends a meeting here she is told that the book needs more sex in it, as this is what the reading public want and expect from a dating book. Naturally, Sofia is reluctant. Her boss tells her that the sex element will distract the reader from questioning why Sofia chooses to live her life the way she does.

She hides at Conall’s when the news breaks that her engagement has failed. This causes her family to be furious with her. There are severe financial implications of this broken relationship too.

I never realised that the weight of disappointment rests mostly on your heart.

Just like that, we are taken back to what is most important: family. We learn the news of Sofia’s father passing away. She’s absolutely devastated. This part of the novel is so poignant and beautifully written. I couldn’t help but feel desperately sad for her.

“One of the issues about the whole ‘being alone’ stance is not having anyone to share the world’s problems with. A person’s been scooped out of your life and so you speak into a pit of nothingness. Or you don’t speak at all, depending on your tendency towards soliloquy.

Life continues and back at Waterloo Station, Sofia recognises the man who called her a terrorist. She decides to follow him and sits in the seat she could see he wanted. In response, he calls her a ‘Paki bitch’. An elder lady and a man come to her defence but Sofia decides to embrace the lessons she’s learnt from Conall. She goes after him, hurls an insult at him and then punches him.

I don’t consider “prick” a swear word. For most people it’s just a state of being.

Conall emails her to say that he won’t be in Afghanistan much longer because he’s met someone and they’re heating to Pakistan to make a film. She isn’t too sure how to take this news but she knows she feels utterly deflated. Work isn’t much better as she finally realised something. She doesn’t want to write this book anymore. She’s reminded that she’s got a contract to fulfil and a book will be published in October. She reluctantly agrees but it won’t be the book she’s drafted. She also resigns.

Conall returns and asks her to come out to Pakistan with him. It doesn’t take her long to agree. The issue is the family, more specially, male members of the family. However, her mother steps up and informs them that times are very different now and she will be absolutely fine.

“I’ve always hated words of comfort. I don’t know if you should trust a person who says ‘It’s going to be OK’ unless they’re going to personally try and fix it.”

Sofia gets on a plane with him where she learns that he has converted to Islam for her. This is of the upmost importance to her and she is completely blown away by this gesture. It was a rule that she would not date anyone that didn’t share her faith as they wouldn’t understand the importance of it.

The book ends with the start of their blossoming relationship.

Final Thoughts

I loved this book for so many reasons. Sofia is just a gem – I honestly wanted to be her friend. I related to the family pressures immensely – it felt like I was part of her family! The exploration of different relationships was really good too. Why shouldn’t people from different believes and backgrounds fall in love? The most important thing for me was this was hilarious. The language was accessible and just so funny. I LOVED it.

Continue to stay safe and well.

Big love all!! Xx