mystery / review / suspense

The Lifeguards by Amanda Eyre Ward

I’ve read Amanda Eyre Ward’s books for nearly 20 years and was so disappointed by The Lifeguards. I didn’t love her last book but it was better than this one. I used to count on her to deliver a book about women and some sort of contemporary issue in an interesting, thoughtful way. I didn’t always identify with her characters but I always have sought out her books as soon as they were available.

I think mystery/thrillers are probably more profitable and marketable than general fiction about women’s lives but I don’t think this is her strength. The timeline was made unnecessarily confusing. The events in the book took place in about the span of a week but the chapters skipped around in both time and point of view. I don’t know why it couldn’t have been told chronologically. I’m a pretty careful reader and at one point I thought there was a mistaken idenitry subplot because the murder victim seemed to have risen from the dead.

There were so many points of view and subplots involving long-lost fathers, addiction, racism, class, suburban sprawl, and citizenship that are never fully explored. The mystery aspect seems forced in. I did like the overarching “mystery” subplot of what can a parent do if you think your child is a sociopath and will never change but that along with all of the other drama could have been its own book. We got a buffet of stories but nothing filling. Literally, every tangent in the book could have been its own book—a series even about the bloated suburbs of Austin was lurking in there–but instead, we got a blender full of half stories and frankly pieced together nonsense.

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