- Author: Liv Constantine
- Edition: Hardcover
- Published: October 17th, 2017
- Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
- Star Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Before I get into this review I just want to preface it with two points:
- SPOILERS ahead! Please do not read this review if you intend to read the book and would like to do so spoiler-free.
- I really ended up hating a lot of things about this book so if you loved it you might want to pass.
I’ll begin with a few of the novel’s strengths before I delve into why I gave this book a one-star review. This book is a highly compelling read. Liv Constantine knows how to write in a way that draws the reader in. I devoured the entirety of The Last Mrs. Parrish in a day, I just wish it hadn’t left such an awful taste in my mouth. I was intrigued by the plot, although I have heard it is very similar to another book I own but haven’t yet read, The Wife Between Us, and I did get sucked into the novel enough that I wanted to see it through even though I had worked out each plot twist before they came to fruition. I knew that Jack was going to be abusive from the moment Daphne panicked when Amber spilled her coffee on the floor, and the moment perspectives shifted from Amber to Daphne, I knew that Daphne would have had a hand in setting Amber up with him. I think that the writing hid these truths enough to be shocking but I’ve read enough books and seen enough television to know plot devices when I see them.
As for the characters themselves, I felt as if every character in this book was incredibly one-dimensional. Even Daphne, our supposed heroine, doesn’t have much of a personality. Amber is nothing more than a money-hungry bloodhound. She has a one track mind that doesn’t make her a very convincing villain or particularly interesting character. The same can be said of Daphne’s abusive husband and the apple of Amber’s eye, Jackson Parrish, whose villainy is near cartoonish in its gratuity. The first part of the book from Amber’s point of view was intriguing, like watching a Lifetime movie play out, but I didn’t feel anything for Amber. I’ll compare this, unfavorably, to Gone Girl, which, in my opinion, is in the upper echelon of the psychological thriller genre, if not the codifier. Amy Dunne is a fantastic character. Even if you hate her, she’s complex, she’s the topic of many debates as to what Flynn was trying to create with her character. Is she meant to lambast the patriarchal demands of women? Is she an amalgamation of every terrible feminist stereotype envisioned by men? Her story is deeply rooted in society and carries multiple meanings, reading Amy’s section of Gone Girl was a thrill, her motives, while extreme, at least made sense – yes, her morality is highly skewed but we knew and understood her thought process behind each one, regardless of whether or not we agreed. We could comprehend every action she took because she was meticulous and calculated and we were able to see the flaws in her character and in Nick’s throughout the unraveling of their marriage. The Last Mrs. Parrish is not even in Gone Girl’s league despite reviewers trying to make us think otherwise. Although, I do think many issues with this novel can be attributed to the book’s poor dialogue and the fact it was in dire need of another round of editing and tightening of the plot. Constantine has a tendency to tell rather than show and often times the dialogue between characters was contrite and overly simplistic or explanatory.
Now to my biggest gripe of the novel and the point of contention I think has many people feeling perplexed: the domestic violence. First of all, the abuse scenes in this book are so over the top, brutal, and gratuitous. They’re completely jarring from the first half of the novel. At some points, I felt like I was reading a novel version of a torture porn. Yes, the scenes were not often long and drawn out or anything of that nature but they were bountiful and still graphic enough to make me feel queasy. It almost felt as if the author was taking great pride in writing out so many of these scenes. There was so many rape scenes, and of course it’s never explicitly called rape but that’s exactly what it was, each scene more twisted and disturbing than the last. We did not need so many scenes of humiliation, debasement, and downright animalistic cruelty to have a portrait of an abusive relationship painted for us. Any actual sex scene in this book is devoid of pleasure for the woman involved, even when Amber and Jackson are in their honeymoon phase she still talks about how often she’s expected to service him and play subservient to his alpha male status.
This whole book is about one woman’s years of harrowing abuse being passed on to another women. Jackson wins. At the end of the day, he gets to continue being a predator and he’s a terribly boring villain. There is nothing fun or enjoyable about Jackson Parrish as a character, nothing that makes you want to root for him but that is exactly what Constantine expects isn’t it? She wants us to see Amber get her “just desserts” by being saddled with him for the rest of her life. She wanted her audience to feel vindicated when Amber is passed into the arms of this abusive man. It reeks of internalized misogyny. I don’t know if the author thought about this that deeply when she was writing it or not, I want to give her the benefit of the doubt but she explicitly had several lines about some women “deserving” their abuse and I can’t condone that wildly irresponsible and frankly, dangerous, viewpoint, even in fiction and even to a person as awful as Amber. Yes, Amber is a terrible person. On par with Jackson? Maybe. But any take on a woman deserving domestic abuse is incredibly toxic, it opens a dark doorway to wonder if any woman who is “bad” is deserving of her abuse? Perhaps I’m overreacting but I just felt gross by the end of the book. I didn’t feel any sense of triumph for Daphne. When I got into Daphne’s chapter I was actually hoping it would turn out that she and Amber somehow decided to work together to rid themselves of Jackson all together, that would have been a far better turn out in my opinion but alas, it never came to pass. Instead we got yet another story about a horrible, abusive man abusing his wife and children and continuing on the cycle of abuse with no end in site. How bleak.
If you can separate your emotions from this book then yes, I imagine it can be a fun read, certainly the type of book you can easily get sucked into. Unfortunately, I couldn’t distance myself enough from the material and I can’t recommend it. I went from enjoying this book to flat-out loathing by the end of it.