Book Review: Gretchen

GRETCHEN | Shannon Kirk
07.23.2019 | Thomas & Mercer
Rating: 5/5 stars


All Lucy has ever known is life on the run. Together with her mother, they have hopped from state to state the moment someone gets too close, the moment they heard someone say “you remind me of someone”, the moment they felt eyes linger on them for too long. Lucy has never known the real reason they are on the run. She has never known what drives her mother’s paranoia.

After thirteen years on the run, Lucy and her mother have landed in a town that Lucy feels is perfect. She can see a future here. A chance to go to school and hold a job like a normal teenager. There are a few things less than desirable about their new living situation. Their new home is located in the isolated New Hampshire woods on the outskirts of town. The landlord and his daughter live on the property in a house up the hill. The father is a pianist obsessed with wearing gloves to protect his hands. The daughter, Gretchen, is Lucy’s age and has all the makings of a perfect friend if only she could shake the possessiveness. Lucy is willing to look away from the flaws and fight for a place to call home, but is she denying too much of what is really happening around her?

The law is this: life is never bright for me and Mom for too long. It is never wise to trust the sun.

WOW!! This review is going to be so hard to encompass all of the thoughts and feelings I have over this amazing book! Last year you might remember me raving over Shannon Kirk and her book, IN THE VINES. Well be prepared to never hear me stop talking about GRETCHEN! This book truly has everything I look for in crime fiction. There is a likeable narrator struggling through a personal drama, an atmospheric location that sets the stage for dread, and a cast of characters that are hiding so many secrets it’s hard to keep up. Whatever you think you’re getting into with this book, it’s that and so much more!

The narration of this story is split between Lucy and her mother. With each switch in narrator the reader slowly gains a hold on Lucy’s current life, as well as background from her mother to how living on the run came to be. All of the years Lucy was a baby and a toddler are covered with the mother’s perspective. What’s unique is that Lucy is unaware of the majority of what the reader learns in these passages. I love that Lucy has only a partial grip on her reality and is moving forward to the best of her abilities. She is an incredibly strong character who the reader can truly bond with.

Live free or die. Are we free? Am I free? Running like this all the time. Worrying always about when the pattern will begin again.

Alongside Lucy are a cast of characters that no reader will soon forget. There are many that I loved and could mention, but not without giving away spoilers. I’ll keep those for chats with others who have read this book and focus on Gretchen. What a strange little girl! I’ve never been so fascinated by a non-narrator/main character the way I was with Gretchen. From learning about what makes her tick, watching her interactions with Lucy, and sitting front row for all of her crazy shenanigans…holy crap! Gretchen is an amazing character that I won’t be forgetting any time soon!

Similar to IN THE VINES, Kirk has mastered within the pages of GRETCHEN, how to use the setting of the story to make the words come to life for the reader. It didn’t matter what town I was in or what house I was walking through. I could vividly imagine all of the places mentioned in this book and truly felt transported into the story. Not only could I envision these places with utmost clarity, but because of that I could also feel every emotion coming from the characters.

At the end of the day, what you need to know is GRETCHEN is an amazing read and it needs to be on your TBR right now!

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository

Disclosure: A huge thank you to Shannon Kirk for sending me a free copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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