Originally published June 2019
Every once in a while I get lucky and am offered a chance to interview an author prior to a book’s publication — in this case, North Shore Chicago denizen Lisa Barr. Which usually means I also get a copy of the book.
Her latest, “The Unbreakables,” hit bookshelves on June 4 — and it’s a tale that’ll have readers wondering if they need to revisit the Ashley Madison hack from a few years back.
The story is fiction, she’ll tell you, but the setting isn’t. From the city to the ‘burbs and straight through to the south of France, Barr weaves in very real places that help to ground a “There’s no way all this happens to one person” kind of story.
The protagonist, Sophie Bloom, is all about celebrating her 42nd birthday with her husband and her best friends when tragedy in the form of multiple betrayals hits — and Sophie wastes no time in leaving scorched earth behind to meet her college-aged daughter in France. Only, it seems, to take another emotional smack to the head. (Honestly, Ava.)
The premise is so over-the-top, yet still so believable, that readers picking this up on a lazy summer Saturday are compelled to keep turning pages to see what will happen next. And that’s just the kind of story that’ll keep you so completely engrossed you won’t realize hours have passed until the sun’s gone down and you need to switch the lamp on just to finish the last few pages.
Barr has developed a set of well-rounded characters, from Sophie and her daughter to her husband Gabe and friends Lauren and Samantha. And they are well-rounded that even given the overarching theme of dishonesty, ultimately, they are painfully honest. I think most readers in mid-life are going to be able to find pieces of Sophie relatable, and if not, at least understandable. After all, who doesn’t occasionally fantasize about a do-over? Or at least an extended solo vacation on the Riveria? And believe you me, this girl earned it.
Love is messy. Relationships are messier. This read might just be the reminder you need to take time to reconnect with the one person that is always there for you — yourself.
The Unbreakables is the perfect kind of escapist read for the beach or vacation, and the book you would pass on to a friend. (It is R-rated, so consider the squeamish factor — Defcon Threesome — before passing on to your mom or your daughter.)