The Kindness of Strangers by Julie Newman

A novel that explores both familial and romantic relationships, love, loss, and revenge that will keep you intrigued until the very end

Genre: relationships / urban mystery

Plot

Recently widowed Helen is desperate for a perfect family life and will do everything she can to get what she wants.  Martin, a veteran of the Afghanistan conflict, is adrift and seemingly without hope, yet yearns to win back his estranged family.  Pregnant teenager Charley is determined to create a new life for her unborn child on her own, but her mother Lizzie has other ideas.  When three apparently disparate lives connect, the past and the present collide to reveal secrets, lies, and how far people are willing to go to hide the truth.

Why I love it

The opening of this novel is immediately very moving as you sympathise with Helen and the grief she feels for her deceased husband.  Her sorrow and his cause of death are so universal that it is easy to apply her circumstances to either yourself or anyone that you know.  Martin is a traumatised war veteran who desperately needs help getting back on his feet.  Just like with Helen, I felt very empathetic towards Martin, albeit for a different reason and different circumstances to Helen, but I think this exemplifies how there are many difficult situations for ordinary people to find themselves in and that are all worthy of sympathy and help. 

I could not help but admire Charley and her determination to create a better life for herself and her unborn child in comparison to the life she has been given by her mother.  Once again, it was very easy to sympathise with Charley and respect her for shouldering the burden of her pregnancy all by herself.  Charley’s opening section was also a nice way of intertwining other characters from the other protagonists’ parts of the book, and it made me eager to read on to witness exactly how everything would unfold.  Audrey’s kindness is absolutely astonishing and it made me wish that there were more people like her in today’s world.  She does whatever she can to help those who are struggling, even if it is something as simple as asking if they are ok.

Although I was able to join the dots quite early on in terms of family connections, that did not stop me from enjoying the book.  I was still intrigued to learn how the protagonists’ lives would develop in light of their respective predicaments.  I was shocked in the latter half of the novel by the turn of events that occurred, and whilst I understand Helen’s motives for her actions, they do not excuse what she does.  Newman’s writing is very easy to read as it draws you in and has you hooked until the last page.  I really liked how my feelings towards Helen were manipulated throughout the book.  I can’t say exactly why they changed, but all I will say is that the truth is unveiled in the last few chapters, which is why I was racing through them in my eagerness to find out how the book would end.

Overall, The Kindness of Strangers is a novel that explores both familial and romantic relationships, love, loss, and revenge.  Amongst all these aspects, however, are complicated connections between the protagonists and a sense of urban mystery that will keep you intrigued until the very end.

Why you should read it

If you enjoy books that explore relationships and have a hint of mystery / thriller to them, then this will be a great read for you.

Rating: 5/5

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