"The writing style has a literary tone that is both accessible and entertaining as the language flows beautifully from chapter to chapter."
Before We Were Strangers: A Novel
Paperback, 978-0-7783-6994-3 (also in hardcover, e-book, audiobook)
400 pgs., $15.99
December 4, 2018
Before We Were Strangers is a stunning romantic thriller that questions the love and loyalty of parents, siblings, and friends. Sloane McBride is tormented by the long-ago memory of the night her mother disappeared. Did she leave on her own? Was she murdered? Could Sloane’s father be responsible? The questions follow Sloane through adolescence and push her to abandon her life in the small Texas town of Millcreek after high school, leaving behind her father, brother, best friend, and boyfriend with no explanations and no goodbyes.
When Sloane returns ten years later to solve the mystery behind her mother’s disappearance, she opens a barrel of trouble that sets the suspenseful tone and quick pace for this wrenching story of love, lies, secrets, and determination. No one goes against the mayor of Millcreek, not even his own daughter. But Sloane does just that when she slips back into a town that had long since buried the events of that fateful night.
Family plays a major role in Before We Were Strangers. Sloane’s father and brother form a united front against her questions, accusations, and demands for answers. Sloane’s childhood friend Paige and the boyfriend she left behind, Micah, married and had a son but are now divorced. Brenda Novak does a fantastic job positioning Sloane as a perceived troublemaker in the dynamics of both families even though she is a beacon of light and truth. While the rekindled romance between Sloane and Micah is both heartwarming and delightful, it is Paige who may capture your heart. This young woman is unable to look beyond her low self-esteem, jealousies, and obsessively possessive behavior toward her ex-husband. The drama slowly unfolds as Paige internally questions her motives to do the wrong thing and often regrets her actions even as she is carrying them out. Paige’s character is real, honest, raw, and somewhat relatable, whereas Sloane often appears to be a little too perfect and beyond reproach.
The writing style has a literary tone that is both accessible and entertaining as the language flows beautifully from chapter to chapter. Novak does repeat many times Sloane’s internal struggle with her familial relationships and desire to unearth the truth at all costs, even as her father acts above the law as mayor, and her brother stands with him. Perhaps the author repeats this sentiment multiple times to drive home that honesty is an important ingredient in any relationship.
A frustrating yet effective aspect of Before We Were Strangers is that so many characters continue to lie, connive, and hide the truth even as they hide from the truth. That tangled web of secrets explodes during the climactic scenes, but hang on because the ride has not come to a full and complete stop. Once the dust settles, Sloane’s redemptive journey reminds us that forgiveness and acceptance often take patience and love. In the words of Alexander Pope, hope springs eternal, and Before We Were Strangers delivers that hope on all fronts.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
It was a shocking experience that jump-started Brenda Novak's career as a bestselling author--she caught her day-care provider drugging her children with cough syrup to get them to sleep all day. That was when Brenda decided she needed to quit her job as a loan officer and help make a living from home.
"When I first got the idea to become a novelist, it took me five years to teach myself the craft and finish my first book," Brenda says. But she sold that book, and the rest is history. Her novels have made the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists and won many awards, including six Rita nominations, the Book Buyer's Best, the Book Seller's Best, the Silver Bullet and the National Reader's Choice Award.
Brenda and her husband, Ted, live in Sacramento and are proud parents of five children—three girls and two boys. When she's not spending time with her family or writing, Brenda is usually raising funds for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease).
Visit Brenda at www.brendanovak.com