In the Vines by Shannon Kirk
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
268 pages

Reviewed by: Keturah Barchers

In the Vines, Shannon Kirk is a psychological thriller that is divided into two points of view: Mary Olivia Pentecost (Mop) and her Aunty Liv Vandonbeer. The story is about the tragic loss of Liv’s sister and Mop’s mother, Johanna. The Vandonbeers and Pentecosts are high class, incredibly affluent families that value their good name. Prior to the gaping hole of grief, the three women were extremely close and spent so much time together that Liv built her sister a cottage on her beachfront property. Already suffering from past traumas and depression, when the tragic loss of Johanna occurs, Aunty Liv withdraws and becomes a recluse for two years. Liv is the instigator to a twisting story of the tumbling road of love and betrayal, and fending off the temptation to live in one’s psychosis. In an attempt to reconnect with her Aunt, Mop finds herself facing not only her Aunt’s demons but becoming aware of her own.

Kirk makes a bold move to have about half of the book told in first person present tense, and she does it very well. When she switches to first person past tense, it is smooth and one hardly notices the change. Her descriptions are beautiful and full of meaning. Sometimes the descriptions slow the narrative, but as this accelerates the tension of the story instead of just adding some lovely fluff, it becomes another fantastic tool for playing with a reader’s emotions. There was one aspect of the story that causes one to pause (this will be vague because spoilers are not cool in a review) and that’s when a reader stops to wonder if it’s medically possible to have the ability to be agile and strong after years of minimal action. The rest of the narrative is too good for someone to care for long about this, or even at all, and so getting thrown back into the story after the brief pause is almost instantaneous.

As a person who devoured thrillers until I was so stuffed I couldn’t even look at the thriller section of a bookstore, I picked up this book with misgivings. I expected to figure out the twist of the story halfway through and wish I hadn’t tried to renew my appetite for the genre. Imagine my surprise, then, when I tore through this book in three days and looked up the author on Goodreads to see what else she’s written. I try to balance my reviews with things that work well and things that could’ve worked better and find myself at a loss for Kirk’s story. Her skill in this piece is exceptional. If you are like me, or know someone like me, who thinks a thriller will never thrill again, I suggest you try Kirk’s In the Vines.

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