Monday, October 26, 2015

Guest Review: The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield


From the award-winning author of The Missing Place—in which “Littlefield’s writing shines" (The Boston Globe)—another gripping exploration of the damage people can do to each other, and the resilience they find in themselves.

A man stands on the Golden Gate Bridge, poised to jump…if a woman on the other end of the phone tells him to.

Maris’s safe suburban world was shattered the day her daughter was found murdered, presumably at the hands of the young woman’s boyfriend. Her marriage crumbling, her routine shattered, Maris walks away from her pampered life as a Bay Area mom the day she receives a call from Ron, father of her daughter’s killer. Wracked with guilt over his son’s actions (and his own possible contribution to them), he asks Maris a single question: should he jump?

With a man’s life in her hands, Maris must decide, perhaps for the first time, what she truly wants. Retribution? Forgiveness? Or something more? Having lost everything, she’s finally free to recreate herself without the confining labels of “wife,” “mother,” or “mourner.” But will this shocking offer free her, or destroy her?

Publication Date: August 11, 2015

About Guest Reviewer Joanna:

Joanna Franklin Bell is a writer living outside Baltimore, MD. Her articles can be read in "Baltimore Magazine" and various sites; her award-winning short story can be found on the "Single Dad Laughing" blog; and her books can be found on Amazon. "Muse: A Cat's Story" is her children's chapter book, "Mrs. Just-So" is her children's picture book, and "Take a Load Off, Mona Jamborski" and "That Birds Would Sing" are her novels. Her third novel, "See No Demons, Hear No Demons" will be released in 2016. Catch up with Joanna on Facebook at:

Joanna's Review:

"The Guilty One" really wanted to be a five star book. It sure started out that way. It hooked me instantly without any cheap "in medias res" scenes, invested me in the main character, and had me ask questions. I went from dreading reading it (I always somehow end up getting the stupid romances) to realizing within one page that this was truly something different.

Then, I said, "Okay. This lady can write, but I've read this story before. This is a mash-up of two of Anne Tyler's books, and I remember these plot lines…" Oops, I was wrong. Right when I thought I had identified an overused, overdone, overplayed fiction device, I discovered I was wrong within sentences. I'd never read this story before. This was unique.

A few pages later, I said, "Ohhhh, now I get it, this is just like that movie where Jennifer Aniston wears fake scars and doesn't have on any make-up after an accident…" Nope, wrong again. As before, the slight similarity in a single element of the story was there, but absolutely nothing else. Again, this was unique.

Go Sophie Littlefield! I'd never heard of her, but I realized I'd met a new writer I respected. I picked up the book more and more, loving it more and more. I loved Maris, I loved Ron, I was thinking I was going to get to know Deb, and Pet, and Norris, and George... Calla's beautiful name was straight from its lily, Karl was complex and so far believable. I found some inconsistent paragraphs, some wrongly-described timelines, some errors of setting, but I was reading an uncorrected proof copy (which I was given by the publisher in exchange for this review). Maybe the editor will have caught those. I barely cared, continuing to read and read…

…and it got better. Right when I thought I knew everything, there was another surprise. And then right when I thought there were no more surprises, there was another one. This book was an eternal pleasure with every paragraph, aside from the fact that it's about a LOT of rotten stuff, namely loss and grief and, as the title would suggest, guilt. It's not an easy read, emotionally. But it's a TRUE read, a REAL read.

Until it isn't.

So apparently someone pushed Sophie Littlefield off the same bridge she saves one of her characters from, because someone who might be Soppy Evensmallerfield took over. What were subtle characters became totally bland and one-dimensional and simply walked around speaking lines randomly with no believability whatsoever. Even a few throwaways were introduced, and I have no idea why. There is no earthly reason for a few of the characters to exist, but it's like they were even more bored by the story they were in, so they wandered to this one, looking for the party. They were disappointed here too. EVERYONE DISSOLVED INTO STEREOTYPE and even that's almost a compliment, since they weren't even interesting enough to BE a stereotype anymore.

Everything started to suck. And I, yes me, yes your judgmental reviewer, I DOCKED A STAR.

Take that, Soppy Evensmallerfield! That's what you get for hijacking a good writer's story! It was actually GOING somewhere, VALIDATING life's hardest emotions, CREATING worlds in my head, and then it fell off the rails. And not even in a grand, light-em-up kind of way, like how all of Stephen King's books can be good until he decides he hasn't quite shocked you enough, so he has the bad guy wrenching off his protagonist's breast with a can opener (totally happened – read "Lisey's Story") and you're like REALLY?! No, this just kind of fell asleep at the wheel and drifted gently and disappointingly into a field, where it ended. The characters stood around like wooden marionettes while the off-stage lighting crew hollered their lines unconvincingly, yanked a few strings to make the limbs move in an approximation of lifelike-ness, then went to the bar for a drink since no one was in the audience anymore.

It's enough to make me dock lots of stars, but I have to remember how much I loved it going in.

My recommendation? Read it or don't read it? That's a good question. I say:

Read it, get to the point where they're at the gala, close it, then email me and ask how it ends. I'll tell you in a single sentence, and you can save yourself the disappointment of limping your way towards it yourself.

Rating: 4/5 Stars


  1. Wow, so torn on whether I should read this book or not after your review. I hate to put the time in if it is going to fall to pieces. Well written review though.

  2. Oh man. :( That sucks. Great review though :) Thanks for sharing!

  3. I really would suggest that you read it, if you're on the fence. I'm a tough critic, and you may find yourself more satisfied with the march towards an ending than I was. The first half, 2/3 really, is worth the effort, and by then, well you're hooked!