This is a spoiler-free review.
A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell
Published March 21st, 2017 by Harper.
She’s your best friend.
She knows all your secrets.
That’s why she’s so dangerous.
It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.
But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.
Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.
“You’d be amazed by what people will do. Things they’d never admit to anyone—not even to themselves.”
This story is told from three different perspectives: Stephanie, a stay-at-home mommy blogger living off the life insurance of her dead husband (who has a few dark secrets hidden in her closet); Emily, the glamorous and sophisticated working mom of Stephanie’s son’s best friend; and Sean, Emily’s apparently charming (but actually simple-minded and sleazy) husband.
When Emily goes mysteriously missing, Stephanie believes its up to her to find out what happened to her friend, all the while stepping into Emily’s now empty role as the matriarch of her household…
I should say that I actually watched the movie first before reading this book. So, I had some expectations coming into it based on what the movie portrayed. However, the movie itself was VERY different from the book it’s based on, that much is obvious from the start. (But that’s a discussion for another time, since this is a book review and not a book/movie comparison.)
Overall, I do think this was a good thriller. I found both the female protagonists, Stephanie and Emily, compelling in their own ways. Though it did take me a while to warm up to them, and in the end, found myself feeling slightly disappointed by both of them, for different reasons.
Stephanie came across as boring to begin with – though that seemed to have been the author’s intent – and only once I began to learn about her torrid past did I warm up to her as a character. Nevertheless, for someone with so many of her own twisted secrets, Stephanie appeared quite naive of other people’s dark potential, something I found a little frustrating to believe. But, I did enjoy seeing her dig into Emily’s mysterious past. I wish in fact the author had gone down that route more, because I felt like all the development her character went through throughout the novel was undone near the end of it – which left me feeling a little unsatisfied in general.
Emily’s character on the other hand, is a lot easier to figure out than Stephanie’s. Her intentions are clear from the beginning, and I appreciated how focused she was on achieving her goals. I will say however, that the one part of the story I felt was meant to give Emily more depth as a character was underwhelming in my opinion, and didn’t endear me any more to her as a person. But, that isn’t to say she wasn’t an interesting character to read from the perspective of – because she was. I just didn’t find myself personally invested in where her story was going either way.
Sean felt the most one dimension of all the trio of protagonists, and was the least interesting to read about overall. I think the only aspects his perspective added to the story was to show breadth into who Stephanie and Emily were from an outsider’s point-of-view, rather then speak to anything inherently compelling about himself as a character. That being said, I do see the purpose of telling parts of the story from his perspective, because by being both Emily’s husband and Stephanie’s lover, he was able to meld their converging storylines together and provide a certain amount of background information that demonstrated how their two fates were tied together.
I think this book is a solid recommendation for someone looking for a light and easy read, and a thriller that doesn’t require lots of extra thinking to understand the plot. That might sound a tad critical, but I mean it in a positive way. Sometimes (especially during the summer months I find) the less complicated the story the better.
This is the perfect book to pick up when your busy and burned-out mind is in need of a pleasantly simple, but nevertheless entertaining break.
Have you read A Simple Favor? Watched the movie?
What did you think of it?