Saturday, July 18, 2015

Concrete Angel: Patricia Abbott


I found this book challenging to read; the subject matter was chilling. Because this story and its subject matter are outside of my normal reading, I can only hope that I can do it justice in a review.  I cannot compare it to other books of the same type because I haven't read many.

The story is told mostly in first person by Christine, daughter of Eve Moran. She tells the story of her mother, her mother's illness and evil behavior, and her own life as a result of being used by her mother for most of her childhood. The events are set in and around Philadelphia in the 1960s and 1970s. I have never been to the state of Pennsylvania, but I did live through those decades and the depiction of the time period seemed very authentic to me.

In the opening chapters, Eve kills a man and insists on treating it as an accident; and then proceeds to let Christine, at twelve years of age, take the blame. From that point on, Christine relates the background of Eve's problems, how her parents met and married, and how Eve's mental problems and behavior mold Christine's life.  Thus this book has elements of crime fiction, but it is primarily a character study and the study of a very dysfunctional family.

Eve Moran is an example of an unlikable person who is interesting. To put it simply, without going into all the possible background for Eve's problems, she is narcissistic and has as extreme need to acquire objects and hoard them. At times I had sympathy for her plight because she does not know (or allow herself to see) that her behavior is evil and hurtful, and when she gets medical treatment, no one treats her problems in any helpful way.

Christine is an intelligent child in an impossible situation, often protecting her mother from discovery. The older she gets,the more she comes to understand that her situation and her relationship with her mother are abnormal, but it seems impossible to pull away from her influence.

About a third of the way through the book, I stopped for the night and went to bed. Thoughts of the book were swirling in my mind and sleep was difficult; it was like I had to process it before I could go further. But at no time did that deter my desire to continue reading the story; it was almost addictive and I did not want to stop reading. Eve's adventures, though extremely unpalatable, were fascinating. And I continued to have hopes that there would a positive resolution for Christine.

One of the best things about this book is the description of the abuse that Christine receives from Eve. It is not physical, and often not even verbal. Eve uses her daughter in any way she can to achieve her aims and very rarely has any consideration for Eve's well-being or her needs growing up. It is very chilling to hear the story from the victim's point of view. I think it important for people to realize that not all child abuse is physical and that it has lasting effects.

It is almost as uncomfortable to read about the people in Christine's life who turn a blind eye to what is happening to her. Her father, who for the most part participates in her life only marginally; her mother's mother, who tries to help in her own way; her father's parents, who don't realize the extent of the situation and don't really want to know; and various other adults in her life.

I recommend this book highly. I found it an excellent read, and I look forward to more from Patti. She is the author of many published short stories, several of which I have read and enjoyed. Also check out this article and interview by J. Kingston Pierce at Kirkus Reviews.

Check out other reviews and interviews at Patti's blog, Pattinase.

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Publisher:   Polis Books, June 2015
Length:      309 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Setting:      Philadelphia, PA
Genre:        Psychological suspense
Source:      I purchased my copy.

18 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for this extremely thoughtful and thorough review. I so appreciate it.

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    1. My pleasure, Patti. I was emotionally involved with this book from beginning to end. And afterward.

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  2. So glad you enjoyed this book, Tracy! I think the characters are really well drawn and compelling. Like you, I was very much drawn into the story.

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    1. You are right, Margot, the characters are very real. Mother / child relationships always interest me especially.

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  3. Good review. I'm not sure I could get through it though.
    Ann

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    1. Thanks, Ann. I have mostly avoided uncomfortable reads in my many years of reading crime fiction, and I am pushing my boundaries a bit more now. The characters in this book are very believable.

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  4. Great review Tracy. I have something else by her on kindle which I will get to first before deciding about this one.

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    1. Is Home Invasion the one you have, Col? I have that and Monkey Justice: Stories. I need to get to both of those.

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    2. Home Invasion, I've heard of the other one but never acquired it.

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    3. I look forward to hearing what you think of Home Invasion.

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  5. Tracy, I enjoyed your review very much. I want to read CONCRETE ANGEL because Patti wrote it and because she can tell a very good story. I think I'm going to like the atmosphere and intensity built into the narrative.

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    1. I am sure you will like the book, Prashant. You are right, Patti tells a story very well and I was absorbed in the plot and the characters.

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  6. Great review Tracy - it does sound chilling, so I am undecided on whether I could face reading it. But it does sound good.

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    1. This is one of the best books I have read this year, Moira. It was challenging for me, but it encourages me to continue to push my limits in reading uncomfortable books.

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  7. Well, I'm happy to see you read outside your comfort zone. I don't mind it in the least because I like books that challenge me. This sounds like a good one so I will put it on my list. Your review is helpful in giving me an idea of what to expect. Thanks.

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    1. I know, Keishon, you do a marvelous job of reading in all the subgenres, and I admire that. I hope you do get to read Concrete Angel.

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  8. Hi Tracy
    I have my second (and probably last) novel coming out in June. I am trying to organize a blog tour as I did last year for the end of June. I am told if you want to review the book it is available at net galley https://www.netgalley.com/. I am not sure what that is exactly but supposedly you can access books if you are reviewing them. If you'd prefer a blog visit from me or an interview or anything else you can think of that would be great too.

    Needless to say, I am more than happy to return the favor with doing the same for you. In fact, I wish more of you would make use of my blog with the feature "How I Came to Write My Book."

    Just let me know if this interests you-or at least if you can tolerate it. I am thinking this will run at the end of June, or early July.

    Best, Patti

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    1. Patti, I would be happy to review your second novel as part of a blog tour. I am familiar with netGalley and I have accessed and reviewed books from there. I have never taken part in a blog tour, so I would need some instructions on that, maybe.

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