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Half of What You Hear
BY Kristyn Kusek Lewis

Harper Paperbacks
Dec 31, 2018/ ISBN 9780062673350
Fiction / Small Town/Rural

Reviewed by Elise Cooper


Half of What You Hear by Kristyn Kusek Lewis highlights living in a small town. Moving to her husband's place of birth Beth Warner must navigate the many scandals and secrets that make Washington DC look like an honorable place.

Lewis noted, "My last two books were more internal stories where readers are able to get inside the characters' heads. This is more dynamic, about a small town. I have some knowledge of the South since my mom is from North Carolina, my husband and I lived there for a while, and I have a lot of family distributed throughout the region."

Bess was the social secretary for the First Lady who was unceremoniously fired. Wanting to get away from the grind and gossip she and her husband take over the running of his parent's inn and move to Greyhill Virginia. She feels apart from her family and the community. Shunned as an outsider and having her daughters becoming more independent, Bess is feeling the effects of an empty nest and isolation.

"I put in this quote at the beginning of the book, from A Bargain For Frances, ‘Being careful is not as much fun as being friends. Do you want to be careful, or do you want to be friends?' I wanted to show that when someone has a relationship, their choices are the need to be careful and watch their words or to be truly authentic. Many times people are defined from one incident. It is about perception and how we judge people based on that one event."

Offered to write a puff piece on one of Greyhill's most famous and secretive residents, Susannah Lane, Bess quickly accepts. Besides a Red Chevy truck, Susannah loved and crashed she opens up about her high school sweetheart, Bess' father-in-law, and her best friend who mysteriously died after falling off a cliff.

Lewis describes her main characters, "Bess is driven and is now searching for a sense of identity after her career imploded. She is placed in a community that really does not want to embrace her and feels like a fish out of water. In small towns, relationships are developed over years with a strong sense of community. She sees the town as having stagnant ideas, which comes out clearly during the interview with Susannah who is haunted by her past. She never felt love and is a broken person. From the outside, Susannah appears to have a charmed life, including driving her red Chevy truck, but reality is very different."

On a fun note, Lewis explained about her passion for red trucks. "I always wanted on old red pick up truck, especially since red is my favorite color. I have been taking pictures of them for years; although I drive the opposite, a grey Subaru Outback."

Readers will feel they are imported into this small town with its old money, mansions, and old-fashioned ideas where dirty laundry is not washed in public.

Reviewed 2019