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The Stories We Tell

Review

The Stories We Tell

Eve Morrison seems to have the perfect life: a handsome, successful husband from an old Southern family; a beautiful, spirited daughter; and a rewarding career. But looks can be deceiving. Behind the façade of perfection lurks an unsettling amount of deceit and betrayal. 

It all begins with a car accident on a rainy night. Eve receives a late night visit from a Savannah policeman with shocking news: her husband, whom she thought was in Charleston on business, and her sister, Willa, have been in an awful car accident. Thankfully, they’ve both survived, but Willa sustained the most serious injuries, including something called a “Traumatic Brain Injury,” which will cause her to forget large chunks of her life and even the words to express herself. Cooper fared better, with some cuts and scrapes that will require plastic surgery later, but, for the most part, he’s fine.

"One can almost feel the humidity of Savannah and smell the Spanish moss. But even with the perfect setting, Henry is an engaging and adept author who doesn’t offer up the typical Hollywood ending, which makes for a most satisfying and enjoyable read."

What was Cooper doing in Savannah when he told Eve he’d be in Charleston? And why was he with Willa? They barely get along. Eve’s head is swimming with questions, but first things first, she has to get to the hospital to make sure both are okay. Check on them, ask questions later. A quick check of her bedroom lets Eve know that her rebellious teenage daughter, Gwen, has snuck out. She’ll also deal with her later. When she arrives at the hospital, she finds her husband awake and coherent, while having some lacerations attended to. He will be released tomorrow. Willa is still unconscious, and it’s a waiting game as to when she’ll wake up and how much she’ll remember. Luckily, Eve has the support of her two friends, Max and Francie, who work with her at Fine Link Ink, the letterpress company she founded and ran out of the converted barn on their property --- well, the Morrison family property, which Cooper inherited from his doting parents.

Even after almost 20 years of marriage, Eve is still in awe of Cooper, as is everyone who meets him. Upon first sight, back in high school, Eve was smitten: “The first thing I noticed about Cooper was his walk. He had this way of moving that only those comfortable in their skin can pull off…. You could say that he had the sort of confidence that comes with money…. And everyone made room for him. We moved aside in the cramped hallways so he could get to his locker…. We all made room for Cooper.” Made room and possibly excuses. Cooper’s startup online magazine for the elegant Southern gentleman was a big gamble --- and one that might not be paying off. He stepped away from his family business to blaze his own trail, which comes at a price. It always seems that Eve’s business got short-shrift; his needs and desires come first.

After his release from the hospital, Eve asks Cooper what happened the night of the accident. He tells her he was having a business dinner at a local bar, and Willa was there, about to perform at their Open Mike night for emerging songwriters. According to Cooper, she was belligerently drunk and about to make a scene. He scuttled her into his car and started to drive her home when she grabbed hold of the steering wheel and the car skidded into a tree. This might be a plausible explanation for most, but it doesn’t sit well with Eve. Willa hasn’t had a drink in years. She struggled with sobriety but, in the past decade, has made great strides at being sober, with her songwriting and performing aiding her in that. When the toxicology report comes back negative for any alcohol or drugs, Eve doesn’t know what to think. What is Cooper hiding, and why would he try to put the blame on Willa? From this tiny thread of doubt, the fabric of Eve’s seemingly perfect  life begins to unravel, one stitch at a time.

In THE STORIES WE TELL, her 10th book, Patti Callahan Henry again paints a vivid picture of a woman who may look like she has it all, but upon closer inspection (and introspection), one realizes that it’s more complicated than the outward appearance might suggest. One of Henry’s strongest suits as a writer is her ability to create a completely inviting world and then graciously welcome the reader in. One can almost feel the humidity of Savannah and smell the Spanish moss. But even with the perfect setting, Henry is an engaging and adept author who doesn’t offer up the typical Hollywood ending, which makes for a most satisfying and enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on June 25, 2014

The Stories We Tell
by Patti Callahan Henry

  • Publication Date: June 24, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 1250040310
  • ISBN-13: 9781250040312