First came the facts: A 39-year-old woman is discovered dead in her apartment in Manhattan.
And then, especially for Lisa Barkley, come the questions: Why? How? And where did this all begin?
Emily Listfield’s Best Intentions is the story of a marriage, a friendship, a host of lies, more than a little betrayal, unrequited love and our often crazy attempts at regaining what it is we’ve felt we lost.
Lisa is a hard-working mom, devoted wife to Sam, and PR representative — clearly cut responsibilities, duties and obligations. Her best friend Deirdre, in turn, is an explosion of possibility — the opposite of predictable. She bounces from boyfriend to boyfriend, often involving herself with married men in the hope that they’ll eventually realize how special she is to them. In the meantime, she runs a boutique in New York City and plays dutiful auntie to Claire and Phoebe, Sam and Lisa’s daughters, who attend an elitist private school downtown.
Lisa is torn between several worlds — the world in which she must work as hard as possible to keep her job; the place she must come home to, her roles as mother and wife irreplaceable; the space she inhabits as Deirdre’s best friend since college, offering her advice and hoping against hope she won’t make bad decisions. And so goes life in their corner of the city . . . until Jack, Deirdre’s first love and college friend, drops back into their lives.
Told from Lisa’s perspective as the world rocks and bucks around her, Best Intentions is fast-paced, suspenseful and pretty unpredictable. I read compulsively, knowing that another twist was just around the corner — and also hoping that though the evidence pointed to something so painful, maybe it was all a misunderstanding. The book relies upon these turns — Listfield herself mentions the turning of a kaleidoscope, all of the facts shifting and changing into different patterns as you look at the situation, or turn it ever-so-slightly. Every time I thought I had my balance with the story, the ground shifted again . . . and everything changed. There didn’t seem to be any easy resolutions. I liked that about it.
And the book seemed to be realistic — the characters felt like people I could know. Though I can’t say I ever got really attached to any of them — I don’t know why — I did feel for them, especially Lisa. It seemed like she was so desperately looking for something to hold on to as everything she knew was blown apart, and I can’t imagine how terrible that must feel.
Listfield weaves great insights into everyday life throughout the story, too. Attention to little things — the tiny, seemingly inconsequential details — is what grabs me as a reader. These tidbits added up to making me wonder how well we can ever really know another person — and how far we can let them know us. We all want to do right by each other, love each other and mean something to the world; and, as Deirdre says, we’re all seeking our “In Case Of Emergency” person. But what do the pieces of our lives add up to form?
The trajectory of a life, laid out across a table, reduced to jottings in a pad, would no doubt seem both damning and inane, our imperfections difficult to justify despite our best intentions.
All in all, a solid and fast read. My only gripe? Some of the punctuation in the novel felt a bit . . . off. Too many commas where there should have been a semicolon. It was really distracting to me! But that’s certainly not a deal-breaker, and shouldn’t keep you from grabbing this one if you’re looking for a little love, some intrigue — and one giant mystery.
4 out of 5!