Book Review: The Unveiling of Polly Forrest by Charlotte Whitney (four stars)

Book Review: The Unveiling of Polly Forrest: A Mystery by Charlotte Whitney (four stars)

‘I thought a small town was bad. Well, living on a farm was a hundred times worse. Everyone made the excuse they were looking out for one another, but really they were meddling types, Sarah being among the worst.’ 

Excellent, enjoyable historical fiction. Deeply rendered picture of rural Michigan life during the Great Depression. Deeply flawed but wholesome trio of protagonists—often each other’s primary antagonist—creates realism and tension. Three unreliable narrators, one who knows it.

‘Farm life was tediously uncreative, and ending up with such a cruel monster was antithetical to anything I’d ever desired.’ 

Complex, realistic characters. Ordained minister who views the Bible as only a guideline; self-righteous control freak; and the princess of her own fantasy. All seven deadly sins woven into a mélange of mistrust, pain, and eventual growth. Each grows; one changes.

‘Once again, Polly was in the spotlight, but I was the one suffering. This went way back.’ 

Modern vocabulary (logistics, militias, context, dominant, and toxic), often by a woman barely out of high school, disrupts the reader’s willing suspension of unbelief.

‘Why would God bring me to this place of utter euphoria and then dump me to wallow in my sins?’

Turn of events at the climax was well foreshadowed. On-the-nose narrative occasionally explains too much, connecting the dots for the reader and diminishing the fun.

“So that’s it? Is there more to tell me?” “Isn’t that enough? I’ve lied to my mother, sister, and brother-in-law. I’ve lied to you and [redacted]. I may have been harboring [redacted].”

Full disclosure: Whitney’s literary agent provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.