Monday, September 11, 2017

Book Review: 'Little Black Lies' by Sandra Block

Dr. Zoe Goldman is a resident in psychiatry in Buffalo, New York. She is calm and professional when dealing with patients such as Tiffany, an emaciated crystal meth addict, and Sofia Vallano, who killed her mother and has been institutionalized for the past twenty years. In "Little Black Lies," by Sandra Block, we learn that Zoe is far from the cool customer she appears to be. She has disturbing nightmares that stem from events she cannot clearly recall. In addition, she visits a therapist, takes Adderall for her ADHD, and keeps Xanax handy to relieve her anxiety. Unfortunately, her adoptive mother, a former social worker, suffers from early-onset dementia and lives in a nursing home.

Block's debut novel is an engrossing tale of a tenacious woman seeking elusive answers to difficult questions. Zoe knows next to nothing about her birth mother. All she has is a name, an old picture, her adoptive mother's increasingly incoherent remarks, and her own foggy recollections. Adding to her woes, Zoe's French boyfriend, Jean Luc, has moved to Washington, D. C. and seems ready for a new life without her.

This diverting novel is enhanced by witty dialogue, Zoe's laugh-out-loud observations, and an engrossing mystery that demonstrates how the past often comes back to haunt us when we least expect it. The plot requires a substantial suspension of disbelief. However, most readers will cheerfully put logic aside, since Zoe is such an ingratiating heroine--feisty, smart, compassionate, and self-effacing. It is not easy for her to deal with her mother, brother, patients, colleagues, and boyfriends (past and present). At long last, Zoe uncovers the truth about a fateful night that has been shrouded in secrecy for decades. Block leaves it for us to decide whether it is beneficial for survivors of traumatic events to relive terrifying experiences buried in their subconscious minds. "Little Black Lies" explores this and other issues concerning families, romance, and troubling skeletons that rattle loudly in one's closet.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right