The Best of FriendsThe Best of Friends by Lucinda Berry
Published by Thomas & Mercer on August 18, 2020
Pages: 284
View Title on Goodreads
Bantering Books Rating: two-stars

An unthinkable tragedy forever changes a group of teens and turns family against family in this edge-of-your-seat thriller that begs to be read in one sitting.
Best friends Lindsey, Kendra, and Dani endure every parent’s nightmare when a tragic accident befalls their teenage boys, leaving one dead, another in a coma, and a third too traumatized to speak.
Reeling from the worst night of their lives, the three mothers plunge into a desperate investigation of the bizarre incident. How could something so horrible happen in their wealthy Southern California suburb?
They soon discover that the accident was just the beginning, and troubling discoveries lead to chilling questions: Do they really know their children? Do they even know each other? As more secrets surface, a fog of doubt and suspicion threatens to poison their families, their friendships, and the whole community.
With the illusion of happiness and safety long gone, these women must now confront the hazards of heartbreak, the consequences of jealousy, and the dangers of living double lives.

Bantering Books Review

Secrets abound in Lucinda Berry’s latest thriller, The Best of Friends.

So many secrets, in fact, that my head is spiraling a bit — and not in a good way. Aye, aye, aye . . .

Kendra, Dani, and Lindsey, best friends since childhood and mothers to three teenage boys, experience a tragedy that is every parent’s worst nightmare. After a hard night of partying, a terrible accident involving the young boys occurs. In a matter of moments, one boy is dead, another is in a coma, and the third is unable to communicate, having withdrawn inside himself.

It’s a horrible nightmare — one that I, personally, cannot contemplate too deeply as a mother of two young boys. And I would be remiss if I did not forewarn readers that the subject matter of this novel is very disturbing at times and may make for a difficult read, particularly for those who are parents.

So, what happened that night? Well . . . you will have to read the novel to find out.

The Best of Friends opens with a prologue that is dramatic and intense. The reader is immediately inserted into the panic that Kendra experiences the night of the accident, feels her fear. One is very quickly absorbed into the narrative —

— and then it all, unfortunately, turns into one big mess.

And all the messiness, my friends, is a result of the writing.

First off, Berry’s writing is simple and pedestrian. The novel does not require much thought from the reader, as Berry’s writing style lacks any sort of real nuance or complexity.

Secondly, the novel is in serious need of character development and voice distinction. The story is told from the points of view of the three mothers, through alternating chapters, and in all honesty, I struggled to keep the characters’ names straight and to remember whose viewpoint I was reading. Juggling three viewpoints and voices should not be this tough to do. But in this case, it is tricky because Kendra, Dani, and Lindsey are basically the same woman, just in triplicate.

Thirdly, — and related to the above-mentioned problem — in what I believe is a misguided attempt by Berry to write the novel in a fashion similar to Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, she initially withholds too much information about the women and their lives from the reader. Berry takes her time . . . WAY too much time . . . and s-l-o-w-l-y unfurls the defining details of the characters, their lives, their hidden scandals and secrets. But she doesn’t reveal enough to the reader in the very beginning so that a clear mental image of the three women can be formed in one’s mind. It is extremely difficult to fully connect to the story and the characters because of this.

And lastly, I feel like Berry throws random, out-of-the blue, jarring facts about the characters into the narrative . . . only to then, very oddly, never mention them again. It’s as if she wanted to desperately up the shock factor and the scandal, and then forgot to fully weave all the dangling loose ends into the story. For example, almost 3/4 of the way into the book, Berry slips in the fact that one of the women has an eating disorder — but then that’s it. The reader never learns anything else about said eating disorder. AT ALL. Umm . . . really?!?! An eating disorder is not something that should be haphazardly tossed into a narrative, only to then be instantly forgotten.

There is also an allusion to a character maybe, possibly, having a drinking problem . . . but I have no clue as to whether it was ever fully clarified in the story. And at the very end of the novel, a reference is made regarding an event that happened during the women’s junior year of high school. But for the life of me, I don’t believe we ever find out what actually transpired. I’ve even skimmed back through the novel and searched, in an attempt to find an earlier reference to that particular night that I may have read and then misplaced in my mind. I have found nothing and am still left scratching my head about it. (If anyone finds another reference or an explanation of the event, will you please let me know?)

And after all that . . . after wading through the novel’s extremely messy and disorganized narrative . . . the big reveal of the who and the how and the why of the tragic accident involving the three teenage boys is a bit of a letdown. It is so anti-climactic, in fact, that I was even taken aback while reading it, not having realized and being surprised that I had, indeed, arrived at the grand finale.

Sigh. ‘Tis disappointing, I know.

Oh! I must also mention the epilogue — so unbelievable and utterly ridiculous. Even now, I am shaking my head in disbelief.

The Best of Friends earns two stars from me, as my interest was held well enough that I was inclined to at least see it through to the end. But unfortunately, I am unable to recommend it.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy from #NetGalley and #ThomasandMercer. All opinions included herein are my own.