12 January 2015

Review: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison

A Small Indiscretion by Jan EllisionAfter twenty years of a conventional marriage and motherhood, Annie Black's reckless youth comes back to haunt her, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear. But how sorry is Annie for her past behavior? And why?

Jan Ellison's A Small Indiscretion explores three phases of Annie's life: a few months in London when she was just nineteen and, decades later, both before and after a car accident that leaves her son, Robbie, fighting for his life. The novel takes the form of a confessional letter in which Annie reveals to Robbie all the gritty, uncomfortable details of her life and how they have ultimately affected him. In addition, even as Annie tells her secrets, she, in turn, is surprised by some of the very real consequences of her actions.

Despite the title of the novel, Annie has actually indulged in several indiscretions. Most prominent is her behavior in London, where she discovered love, sex, and alcohol and found herself in a grown-up world in which she didn't quite fit. When she meets the man who eventually became her husband--on a ferry to Ireland--she almost immediately senses his calming, stabilizing influence. Annie, however, doesn't tell him everything that went on in England in the weeks before they met, weakening their relationship almost before it has a chance to begin.

A Small Indiscretion has been receiving quite a lot of critical praise, but for me it was only okay. My first issue was with the structure of the novel, which jumped through time, sometimes leaving me momentarily unsure if Annie was talking about before or after the accident. Second, although Annie's nineteen-year-old self could be forgiven some indiscretion, I'm not convinced that her forty-year-old self could. I was often unsympathetic to her plight, distancing me from her story.

On the other hand, it's just these elements that would make A Small Indiscretion a good book club pick. Discussion topics could include marriage, motherhood, youth, redemption, forgiveness, love, revenge, and keeping secrets. Jan Ellison's website includes a page with thirteen thoughtful questions that cover these and other issues.

Recommendation: Give this one a shot if you're interested in the question of whether you can ever really outrun your past or you ever think about how much a husband and wife should share about their lives. Ellison gives her readers food for thought, even if A Small Indiscretion will not be a home run with everyone.

Audiobook: I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (Random House Audio; 10 hr, 15 min), read by Kathe Mazur, whose sensitive performance enhances the novel. My full audiobook review (mostly positive) will be available from AudioFile magazine.

Published by Random House, January 20, 2015
ISBN-13: 9780812995442
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


OnDBookshelf 1/12/15, 10:39 AM  

I had kind of already decided that this one was not one I would enjoy. Your review has helped me keep another book off my tbr list, so thank you :)

bermudaonion 1/12/15, 10:39 AM  

I wonder if the jumps in time would be easier to keep track of in print? I'm with you, though, by 40 she should have known better.

rhapsodyinbooks 1/12/15, 11:50 AM  

Well, you guys! I've never known better until AFTERwards, no matter what age! So if someone writes a book about someone like me, that's okay (even though my self-disgust would leak through and I would dislike the character even more!)

Daryl 1/12/15, 12:51 PM  

oddly rather than putting me off this one i am curious .. not sure i will follow through but i am curious

Unknown 1/13/15, 12:54 AM  

I'm oddly curious about this one. I had a very colorful youth, I was single and independent from 23 to 29, when I met my husband. I wasn't a nun. I think now, nearly 25 years later he knows who I am, but I'm not sure he really knows who I was. I left no bodies behind, thank goodness :). Intriguing.

Sandy Nawrot 1/13/15, 4:48 PM  

Am I crazy to say that there is some stuff better off forgotten? I certainly had some of those moments in my youth that nobody really needs to know about. I didn't know that it was mandatory that you tell your husband every little secret! LOL

Anonymous,  1/15/15, 7:54 PM  

I apologize if this comment is a repeat - I can't tell if my first one disappeared or not!

I didn't sympathize with her adult choices at all - one of the reasons I didn't like it. Also, the time jumps really threw me.

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