One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 27th 2015 by William Morrow & Company (first published in the UK April 7th 2013)
An ARC of this novel was provided by the publisher through TLC Book Tours. I received this copy for my honest review and participation in the book tour.
Enigmatic Emily is a mother, pregnant with her second child, and happily married. However, the next second she is manically changing her name and running away from her life. Her family, her friends… everything. What compels her to do this? There is something that has happened to her that left her “understandably” distant and depressed. This leaves us all wondering… What happened to Emily?
This novel is a story of reinvention, pain, and acceptance. When we meet Emily, she is making her transition to Cat, London’s newest resident. She finds herself at the mercy of a girl named Angel (both aptly and ironically, it seems). They become fast friends in dirty old house filled to the brim with roommates. “Cat” makes the best of it, and manages to eventually find herself a job. Can Emily become Cat without losing who she really is? Why does she even have to?
I really enjoyed this book. The characters were poignant and complex, each with their own backstory and baggage. Everyone is equally messed up, it seems. The story is told from multiple POVs, and at different times. The main narrator, though, is Emily—or Cat. I generally am not the biggest fan of shifting POVs, but in this novel it worked quite well. We get bits and pieces from other people in Emily’s life, and it helps round out the story. I especially enjoyed reading bits from Caroline’s perspective—Emily’s twin.
Emily and her twin, Caroline, never had the typical twin relationship. Dysfunction and favouritism in their family led to a lot of resentment, misunderstanding, and bitterness. The Brown family is essentially a hot mess, that spit out one fully functioning girl (Emily) and one broken force of nature (Caroline). The family history here is rich, complex, and fully fleshed out. It was one of the best aspects of the story.
When the story got to the last stretch, however, I was not completely impressed. The final revelation felt a bit cheap to me—it felt more like a technicality than a solid plot device. I think that this novel might have been better perhaps if the focus was on the rich cast of characters and not on cheap thrills. This books might have been A+ material for me if it explored these relationships in more depth and without the distraction of the mystery element. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good mystery/thriller. But I don’t think it really fit here—at least not in the way that it was done. I don’t think the question should be “Can you figure out Emily’s secret?” but, “Who are these people, really?”
While I don’t think this is a proper mystery/thriller, I think the writing and the exploration of family make this a worthwhile read.
About the Author
Tina Seskis grew up in Hampshire, England, and after graduating from the University of Bath spent more than twenty years working in marketing and advertising. One Step Too Far is her debut novel, and was first published independently in the UK, where it shot to the #1 spot on the bestseller list. Her second novel is forthcoming. She lives in North London with her husband and son.
Find out more about Tina at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
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Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.