*I received a free ARC of this book via Rachel’s Random Resources blog tour. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Would your life unravel if someone you knew committed suicide? Theirs did.
Faye knows her heart still belongs to her first love, Jack. She also knows he might have moved on, but when she decides to track him down, nothing prepares her for the news that he’s taken his own life.
Faye is left wondering how to move forward – and whether or not Jack’s best friend Ethan will let her down again. And the news of Jack’s death ripples through the lives of her friends too.
Abbie finds herself questioning her marriage, and wondering if she was right to leave her first love behind. Poor Olivia is juggling her job and her boyfriend and trying to deal with a death of her own. And Jack’s death has hit Beth the hardest, even though she never knew him.
Is Beth about to take her own life too?
Four women – very different – but each one carries a weight of loneliness, anxiety, insecurity heavy enough to crush her. Knowingly or not, it is their friendships with each other that give them the strength and clarity to bear their loads, but not one of them feels confidence in those friendships enough to let their masks slip… until they have no choice.
The Second Cup is less about friendship and more about the individual struggle between public and private self, and whether (even with friends) we feel able to move from one to the other. Each of the four women has their own coping mechanisms, from alcohol to rituals or dares, to putting aside one’s own needs to live for others. These strategies allow them to cope with unsatisfactory jobs and unhealthy relationships, but the story shows the possibility of growth if we can let go of the short-term fixes to reach for a happier life.
Not just about life lessons, The Second Cup also contains mysteries: what really happened between Jack and Faye? What happened to Jack afterwards? Why was Beth so stricken by the loss of a stranger? What paths led each of these women to their current circumstances, and can they change them for the better? By flicking between first-person narratives of each character, interspersed with the occasional third-person narrative observation; and by following a non-linear timeline that criss-crosses back and forth across the main plotline, the author is able to mislead the reader into ‘believing’ the character’s perceptions even when we ‘know’ them to be mistaken. This creates some lovely moments of tension and reveal that place the reader as a fifth friend trying to follow the events as they swoop in and out of control.
I found the ending, the big Jack reveal, a little unsatisfactory and abrupt after such a delicately nuanced build-up. I would have liked a little more of the character’s distinct voice and thought processes, having enjoyed those details with the other characters. However I do appreciate that Jack is not really a ‘character’ so much as a catalyst for the growth and change in the lives his death has touched.
Conversely I really liked the character interviews after the end, which very satisfactorily answered the perpetual question: but what happened next?! I was fascinated to see the after-effects and whether the changes had ‘stuck’, much like a follow-up episode of a makeover series!
If you are looking for a thoughtful and fascinating woman-centric exploration of Outsider Syndrome as it affects every one of us on our solo journey through the world, then The Second Cup is a sensitive and entertaining read.
For Beth, swinging her feet is an attempt to stay in the moment. Staying in the moment stops her coming back down to earth with such a bump that she bruises her coccyx and her bones and teeth rattle. But even if Beth stays in the moment at the time, afterwards there’s a longing for something to fill the space the adventure leaves. During an adventure, she can carry an atlas stone in each hand and pull a 5-ton truck with her little finger. Afterwards she’s a dead moth’s wing, all dried up, crumbling to a whisper.
– Sarah Marie Graye, The Second Cup
The Second Cup is available on Amazon right now!