Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Barry's Reviews: "CONCRETE ANGEL" (2015) by Patricia Abbott (Reviewed by Barry Ergang)

CONCRETE ANGEL (2015) by Patricia Abbott

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

Eve (short for Evelyn) Moran is a narcissist, a kleptomaniac, a hoarder, and a schemer. She is also physically attractive and capable of turning on the charm when necessary, which is how she (much of the time) gets away with her thefts. She is a murderess, too—but lest you accuse me of spoiling a surprise, there isn’t one; you’ll find this out on the first page. She manages to get away with that crime thanks to her daughter
Christine, the novel’s narrator, who has been only too ready since early childhood to accept the blame for her mother’s wrongdoings.

The product of parents who were hidebound and judgmental instead of affectionate and attentive, Eve, who seems to me possessed of an instinctive, unconscious guile, a kind of na├»ve cunning—at least in her early days—is someone who received more criticism than support or remediation during her formative years. This dysfunctionality, along with her unappeasable acquisitiveness, has carried over into her marriage to Hank Moran and the home she made for him and, eventually, for Christine.

While she has stood by her mother through all of the latter’s tribulations, while she has endured the physical and emotional absence of her father and the conflicting attitudes and approaches of maternal and paternal grandparents, the college-aged Christine must ultimately deal with a moral dilemma and come to grips with the fact that Eve has put yet another and utterly helpless individual into a perilous situation, and that she—Christine—is the only person with the power to resolve it, for better or worse.

Thinking about the novel’s title, I’ve wondered whether it applies to mother or daughter or both. Eve has been an attractive woman her entire life, but a woman encased in the hard shell of the kind of self-absorption that fuels manipulation when it serves her purpose.  Christine, on the other hand, is inherently a well-intentioned—albeit frequently misled— girl who has had to harden herself against the vagaries of her unconventional, erratic upbringing.  

Readers familiar with Patricia Abbott as a writer known primarily for her short crime fiction may have to adjust their expectations, as I did, when they begin reading Concrete Angel,  her debut novel, because although it contains more than its share of criminal behavior, it really isn’t classifiable as a crime novel by traditional standards. It is, rather, a well-written and fascinating psychological portrait of a woman who cannot control the impulses that drive her, and the consequences she and the impulses have on those closest to her, especially her daughter.

Emphatically recommended.

© 2015 Barry Ergang

Examples of Derringer Award-winner Barry Ergang’s work can be found at Smashwords and Amazon. His website is http://www.writetrack.yolasite.com/

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am so happy you liked CONCRETE ANGEL! And what a wonderfully complex reading both you and Kevingave it. When other writers review your work it is doubly satisfying. Many thanks!