Sunday, August 7, 2016

BLUE DIARY by Alice Hoffman

Beautiful Jorie and handsome Ethan have the perfect marriage.  Also, Ethan is an all-around good guy, serving as a volunteer fireman and Little League baseball coach in a small Massachusetts town.  In fact, he’s rescued several people from burning buildings, earning him a reputation as a local hero.  Suddenly, a blast from the past changes everything, and Ethan is arrested for a rape and murder that happened in Maryland before he met Jorie.  Jorie and her 12-year-old son Collie are in shock, and Jorie has to question how well she knows her husband, whose past she has apparently never shown an interest in.  Now, however, she journeys to the scene of the crime in order to experience more fully what its impact has been and to get a better handle on what happened.  The author’s signature magical realism is absent from this novel, but Jorie’s attitude up until the arrest seems to have been “ignorance is bliss,” and I didn’t really buy that.  More unbelievable, though, is the complete about-face that Ethan makes—from being a narcissistic sociopath to becoming a model husband, father, and citizen.  Kat, a friend of Collie’s, narrates part of the novel in first person and turns Ethan in after recognizing him from a photo on a reality TV crime show.  Her gorgeous 17-year-old sister Rosarie is basically the female equivalent of the old Ethan, so that Kat has first-hand knowledge of how someone can hide his/her true nature behind a pretty face.  What I liked about this book was the polarizing effect that Ethan’s arrest has on people.  In the Massachusetts town where he now lives, there are rallies to raise money for his defense fund, because no one there can believe that he would be capable of such a horrific crime.  In the Maryland town where the murder occurred, however, certainly no one has sympathy for Ethan or his family.  No one has felt safe there for the past 15 years, and some still think a ghost scarecrow committed the crime, because the murderer took a scarecrow’s clothes to replace his blood-soaked garments.  They hope to have closure, but nothing can bring back a life abruptly and brutally ended far too soon.

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