Desert Isle Keeper
What It Seems
I have a good friend who loves the work of author Emily Bleeker, and she’s been encouraging me to pick up one of her books for quite some time now. When I read the synopsis for Ms. Bleeker’s latest novel What It Seems, I knew it was the perfect book for me. I read it in a single sitting, and I have now purchased her previous books as well.
Twenty-year-old Tara doesn’t know much about families. She lives with her extremely controlling mother who adopted her under strange circumstances when Tara was eight, and for the past twelve years, it’s just been the two of them. Her mother is a very volatile person, and Tara is punished for the smallest infraction. Her only real link to the outside world comes in the form of the Feelys, a family whose internet videos form the basis for Tara’s fantasies. She’d give anything to be a part of such a warm, loving, upbeat family, the kind of people who seem to love each other unconditionally.
While surfing the web late one night, Tara makes a startling discovery. The close-knit family she’s been idolizing for months is looking for an intern. At first, running away from her mother and joining the Feely family seems like nothing more than a pipe dream, but as the days pass and things grow increasingly untenable at home, Tara begins to plan her escape.
Soon, things fall into place and Tara is living what she thinks of as the perfect life. She’s not punished for her every mistake, and she is starting to feel like a valued member of the family. Unfortunately for her, things aren’t quite as idyllic as they seem. The Feelys have their share of personal problems, and it isn’t long before cracks begin to form in Tara’s hard-won existence.
Tara is a very troubled young woman, and readers won’t always like the choices she makes. However, these choices, problematic as some of them may be, do make a great deal of sense given her less-than-stellar upbringing. It’s clear from the start that she wants desperately to be loved and valued, but she has no real clue how to go about it. Some of her actions made me cringe, but I still found myself hoping she’d come out on top.
You’re probably wondering about the Feelys, but I’m going to allow you to discover their secrets for yourself. They’re a complicated bunch of people, and I found it difficult to know who to trust pretty much from the start. Tara thinks they’re perfect, but I wasn’t convinced, and I doubt you will be either.
If abuse is difficult for you to read about, you might want to steer clear of What It Seems. The first quarter of the book has some vivid descriptions of the horrible way Tara’s mother treats her, and there are some flashbacks of abuse later on as well. I didn’t find them overly graphic, but Ms. Bleeker does such a fantastic job transporting readers out of their everyday lives and into the hell Tara experiences, and this could prove difficult if you’re sensitive to the subject matter.
This is definitely a thriller, but in a way, it’s also a coming-of-age story, and I loved watching Tara come into her own. It’s not always a smooth process, but it’s brimming with authenticity and heart. The author celebrates all of Tara’s imperfections and seems to urge the reader to do the same, and also made me feel as though my heart was in my throat due to the danger I was pretty sure was right around the corner. It’s an interesting mix of genres, and Ms. Bleeker pulls it off beautifully.