Read On: The Stranger by Harlan Coben

2015 has brought book lovers a slew of new novels, one in particular The Stranger by Harlan Coben. Hovering somewhere in the top 10 of the New York Times Bestseller list for weeks, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Coben wastes no time in capturing the reader’s attention; his no muss no fuss writing approach is refreshing as he is curt, gets to the point, and jumps right into his story. By page two, our main character Adam, a happy-go-lucky dad “living the dream” is confronted by an anonymous man who simply refers to himself as “the stranger.” The stranger’s job is to confront unsuspecting victims and drop huge bombs upon them regarding deep dark secrets in their lives, shattering the mirage of the perfect life they inhabit. And what was Adam’s secret? Apparently, his wife, college sweetheart, faked one of her pregnancies via the questionable website fake-a-pregnancy.com.

The stranger’s secret turns Adam’s world upside down and he begins to question everything: Is his marriage a sham? Are his two current children even his? Who is this stranger? Why does he know this life changing, intimate detail in Adam’s life? Adam must find answers. First and foremost, he confronts his wife Corinne. When Corinne disappears/runs away the next day, Adam’s next priority is to discover the identity of the stranger and thus find his wife. Through doing so, Adam happens upon much more then he’d been bargaining for, from blackmail to stolen lacrosse team money to kidnapping, even murder. Can Adam figure this all out before it’s too late?

The Stranger by Harlan Coben broaches the ever-so-relevant topic of what it really means to “live the dream” and puts a new perspective on “perfect,” not to mention brings to light how damaging a secret can be and how in the wrong hands, or perhaps the right hands, it can collapse the foundations of an entire life and family. The Stranger, both the book and the character, really questions what is right and wrong. Does sharing a secret, whether it’s your secret to tell or not, bring justice? Does it matter if it’s yours to tell when you are serving a truth, perhaps even righting a wrong? Does serving a truth in fact right a wrong, is that even possible?

While I appreciated Coben’s terse method of story telling, I was not a fan of his actual writing style. It’s definitely not a requirement for a book to be written well to be on the New York Times Bestseller list (Fifty Shades of Grey), however it’s still disappointing when it happens. This irked me throughout the book and probably got in my way of appreciating it to its fullest. Sure, the story was great, it was suspenseful, it had all the good elements to a good book, however I really think everything could have all come together in a much more mind-blowing way had it been better written. I could not utterly and completely immerse myself in this story; I could only merely appreciate it from afar.

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