Confusion of Languages (★★★★★)

Confusion of Languages

Siobhan Fallon   *   GP Putnam’s Sons   *   June 27, 2017   *   336 Pages

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American couple Cassie and Dan Hugo have been living in Jordan for the past two years. In that time, they’ve grown more familiar with their new environment, though never quite comfortable in the volatile region. Cassie, especially, is struggling, since she’s been unable to get pregnant and, therefore, has fewer things in common with most of the military wives who have young children. Her infertility woes aren’t helping the quality of her relationship with Dan either.

So when Margaret and Crick Brickshaw arrive in Jordan and become the Hugo’s new neighbors, Cassie is secretly hopeful that she might find a friend in Margaret. Oh sure, Margaret is younger and prettier, and also mother to a chunky and demanding toddler, Mather (who Cassie doesn’t much care for). But Cassie envisions herself as Margaret’s mentor, her guide to understanding the rules and regulations of their shared situation. So she’s willing to make it work.

At first, Margaret is grateful for Cassie’s advice. But soon it becomes obvious that Margaret has no intention of being confined—not to her house, not to the embassy, and certainly not by any rules. It isn’t until a freak accident leads to Margaret’s disappearance that Cassie realizes just how much her friend has been hiding.

 *   *   *   *   *

Although I’ve read a lot of books, both fiction and nonfiction, about the experiences of soldiers engaged in conflicts overseas, I actually haven’t read much of anything on the experiences of military families living abroad. Cassie and Margaret’s routines, struggles, and conflicts were all new to me, so the book ended up being very eye-opening and educational in that respect.

And the story itself is so well done. Of course the mystery of the missing person drew me in, but the characters are what had me feverishly flipping pages. Margaret, especially, stole my heart. Somehow I was always as irritated with her as I was sympathetic, but I never, not once, left her corner. There is something so fragile and needy about her. On the outside she comes across as effortlessly effervescent, but inside she’s so rattled, shellshocked by grief, and overwhelmed by her own desperate longing to be seen and known, that even though she kept making stupid decision after stupid decision, I still couldn’t help empathizing with her, her humanness.

I won’t give anything away, but I will say that the ending of this book absolutely shocked me. I wasn’t expecting it at all. And, truthfully, it tormented me a bit! Is there a message in this ending? Is author Fallon letting us know that certain people, certain personalities perhaps don’t have a place in this world? And if they don’t, is that their fault or everyone else’s? Oh man, it got to me, and I’m still sorting out how I feel.

In short, this was a wonderful read. Such beautiful writing and such a moving story about friendship, marriage, jealousy, and misunderstanding. I loved it start to finish.

Advanced Reader Copy provided through Net Galley.


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