Title: What Beauty there is
Author: Cory Anderson
Publication Date: April 8th 2021
Comment: I was given an early copy of this book from @the_writereads and Penguin books in exchange for an honest review. My opinion was in no way swayed by the scary Bardem.
When everything you love is in danger, how long can you keep running to survive?
Life can be brutal
Winter in Idaho. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.
Jack knew it
Jack Dahl has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he’d die for. Their mother is gone, and their funds are quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison.
So did I
Ava lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father, a merciless man, has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one.
Did I feel the flutter of wings when Jack and I met? Did I sense the coming tornado?
But now Ava wants to break the rules – to let Jack in and open her heart. Then she discovers that Jack and her father are stalking the same money, and suddenly Ava is faced with a terrible choice: remain silent or speak out and help the brothers survive.
Looking back, I think I did . . .
Jack comes home from school one day to find his mother has taken her own life leaving him with no money, no house and sole custody of his little brother Matty.
With their father in jail and no other relatives, it looks like child services will take Matty away and Jack isn’t about to let that happen.
He has a plan. His father was involved in a drug heist that went wrong. But he never gave up the money. If Jack could find it then he and his brother can pay rent and Jack can get out of this town where his father’s name is nothing but a dead weight around his neck.
Ava has been kept in isolation, living with her brute of a father whose mantra of love no one he has tried to install in her.
But when Jack saves her from a school bully, there is something about him that tempts her to break her father’s rule.
But she knows something that Jack doesn’t. Her father was the other partner in the heist that got Jack’s father incarcerated and her father will rest at nothing until he gets that money back.
Jack and Ava find themselves on the wrong side of the law, on the wrong side of the drug dealers and fleeing for their lives. But what will happen when secrets are told and who will survive?
This is a tense thriller that will have you turning the pages quickly. I think I actually managed to read it in one sitting. This had everything to do with the plot and nothing to do with the washing that needed doing. (I wasn’t procrastinating at all.)
The story switches between Jack and Ava’s points of view and this really allows you to enter into their heads and view their interactions from both sides.
I think I was gripped from the initial chapter of Jack as he comes home to find his mother has taken her own life. We are with him in that moment where those last remnants of childhood are stripped away and the weight of his responsibilities hit him.
Having such a tumultuous awakening we feel empathy for Jack right from the get go which is only exacerbated when we see how he reacts when his little brother comes home. Jack’s every thought is of taking care of Matty and making sure that he doesn’t leave his brother.
I’ve said before in posts that one of my favourite aspects of books is sibling love and you can feel the love and care between Jack and Matty and that just keeps growing throughout the book.
Matty’s love and dependence on his brother is wonderful and really shows that they have such a loving relationship.
Ava’s relationship with her father had me a little confused. We know that he can be a violent man but in all of Ava’s flashbacks we see him as quite a caring father. There is an air of menace around his character (HAH! An air of menace! The guy was a stone-cold sociopath whose very presence on the page gave me chills). But I never got the proof that he mistreated Ava.
Perhaps I missed something but his insistence about not loving anything were at odds with his treatment of Ava and his ‘revelation’ at the end about what is important never struck me as a realisation and so dulled the confrontation for me slightly.
While I feel that Jack and Matty’s relationship was very well emphasized and drawn out; I think that Jack and Ava’s relationship left a lot to be desired. They never really seemed to have much chemistry, and their romance felt shoe-horned in rather than progressed naturally. Maybe that was because the book was set over only a few days but I feel there could have been more to it.
The ending confused me a bit too. The last chapter/epilogue had me wondering if I’d read something wrong and had to back up a few pages. It wasn’t until I saw a post from someone else saying that there was a possibility that there would be another book which retold things from a different timeline that I think I got it.
My husband has a habit of making me watch movies that just sort of end with a ‘blah’. No Country for old men and Fargo being two of these.
The dead-pan police in this book seemed straight out of Fargo and the psychotic assassin felt very No Country. That’s not to say it wasn’t done well, but it did have that Coen brothers feel about it.
I really did enjoy it and will definitely be looking out for more Cory Anderson books.
If you like low key thrillers with beautiful language, clear-cut villains and suspense I would highly recommend this book.