- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Polis Books (June 9, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1940610389
- ISBN-13: 978-1940610382
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 41 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,297,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Concrete Angel Paperback – June 9, 2015
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"With cool, compelling prose, CONCRETE ANGEL reveals the menace that lurks beneath a mother’s charming facade. An absorbing novel by an unusually fine writer.”
Meg Gardiner, Edgar Award-winning author of CHINA LAKE andTHE MEMORY COLLECTOR
"(An) enthralling, dark debut novel...It’s a potent and at times poignant combination. Those who enjoy suspenseful, atmospheric family drama will find much to love here."
Library Journal (starred review)
"Christine's mother Eve is sharp, beautiful, charismatic... and a murderous sociopath. Their complicated and heartbreaking relationship is explored in CONCRETE ANGEL -- a riveting depiction of family ties and how they can bind, ensnare, strangle."
Alison Gaylin, USA Today bestselling author
"CONCRETE ANGEL is debut novelist Patti Abbott’s exquisitely rendered character study of a manipulative mother over two decades. Eve is a woman obsessed but how will our narrator, Eve’s only daughter, respond as her childhood innocence is taken away? Abbott exhibits a pitch-perfect precision with both language and setting in capturing the tragic world of a mid-century Pennsylvania family."
Edgar Award-winning author Naomi Hirahara
"This is a gripping psychological thriller...will draw fans of the late Ruth Rendell as well as Paula Hawkins' The Girl on the Train."
"A fresh, original voice telling a story that's probably, in broad outline if not detail, more common than we know. But what detail! From the opening sentence, a grabber.”
SJ Rozan, Edgar-winning author (as Sam Cabot) of SKIN OF THE WOLF
"The characters in Abbott’s debut novel are fully realized." Kirkus Reviews
"CONCRETE ANGEL is a culmination of her very best and is not to be missed." Criminal Element
"It's one of these novels that makes it so easy to turn the pages that it'll keep you under its spell past dinner and bed time."
Dead End Follies
"CONCRETE ANGEL is a noir novel unlike anything you've ever read. Abbott has a new voice that's both chilling and shocking."
Sandra Scoppetone, award-winning author of the Lauren Laurano series
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When we are introduced to Eve she seems almost a monster, a Mommy Dearest-type. I mean, what kind of mother would kill a man (this happens on page one, so no spoiler here) and have her twelve year old daughter take the blame? Yet in the course of the novel as we see Eve's background and the choices she makes - and the price she pays for them - I was surprised to find myself almost feeling a little sympathy for her at times. (Of course, Eve's later actions negate this, but still....) This is surely a sign of skillful writing.
Overall, this is a very well written and fascinating story and I recommend it highly.
What is intentional is my review of Concrete Angel for this feature. Concrete Angel happens to be Abbott's own debut novel, published nearly a year ago. I read it then, and re-read it yesterday. The first time was a jaw-dropping experience. Yesterday was the same jaw-wise, but from a different vantage. This time the characters revealed much of themselves I'd missed before, before I knew how it all would end. This time they pulled me so deep into their lives I'm afraid I might have given voice to my fears, muttered warnings, trying to get my fictional friends out of jams, to see the dangers ahead. I should probably wait another couple of years before reading it again, give my imagination a rest, or I might end up inside Concrete Angel for good with no way out.
Yet another cosmic convergence of timing brought me back to Concrete Angel to sound this unintended discord amid the harmony decreed for mama's special day. Last week I brought several of John le Carré's novels home from the library's used-book sale, and immediately read A Perfect Spy. Unbeknownst to me as I started reading, the primary supporting character was the eponymous spy's monster father.
Villainous parents, of course, have played prominent roles in our fictional dramas since the days of Sophocles, and no doubt earlier. What keener way to engage the inner adolescent in anyone than to tickle memories of that tug-of-war between love and independence that arrives inevitably with awakening from innocence? In Concrete Angel twelve-year-old Christine's travail with this filial rope enters a lethal arena when her divorced mother shoots a man to death in their apartment while her daughter's asleep in the next room. Mother persuades daughter to take the rap, claiming daughter, awakened by noise, mistakenly thought the man mother had invited to the apartment only hours earlier, had entertained and then taken to bed, was attacking her.
The ruse works. The authorities buy it, and the only legal consequence is court-ordered counseling for the girl. Even Christine, bewitched by her mother's powerful, manipulative personality, almost comes to believe the imaginary version of what happened. In fact, Christine's mother had emptied her revolver into the man as he tried to call the police after catching her going through his wallet.
Occurring only weeks after Christine's parents' divorce, the murder caps what up to then had been an abnormally tight relationship between mother and daughter. Christine, from her earliest memories, had assumed the role of confidante, passive accomplice, and protector to an obsessive/compulsive, thieving con-artist mother. The shooting punctures Christine's albeit uneasy comfort zone in this bond. It arouses her survival instincts, allowing her to see her life more objectively and to recognize, by increments, the intimate toxicity of her mother's presence.
Christine bides her time. She's inherited, if not the pathology, her mother's toughness and cunning, traits similar to those of le Carré's spies. And Christine does become a spy, but her only target is her mother. It takes six more years before the girl, now eighteen, knows it's time to make the break. Her incentive is to save her younger step-brother from succeeding her as their mother's unwitting partner in crime. She sees it already happening, their mother taking the cutely dressed boy with her as a diversion while she shoplifts and buys merchandise with fake identification and bad checks. It comes to a head when the gun is turned on Christine after she confronts her mother with documentary evidence of her lifelong crimes.
Obviously Christine survives, at least long enough to narrate much of Concrete Angel. And hers is a surprisingly upbeat, wryly amused voice. Her mother amazes her in retrospect, the daughter admiring in a detached way the beauty and charm of this agile, quick-witted, thoroughly self-absorbed woman. It's as if she's describing some wild jungle cat, some force of nature, the way her mother sees herself.
“No one can cure me because there’s nothing to cure. I just like my junk,” she says when confronted with her obsessive need for things. On another occasion, when her husband suggests another in a succession of professional treatments, she offers this snarky observation: “Acquisitive women must rank at the top of the list of faddish psychiatric disorders.” She blinked her eyes twice. “You only have to think of how many synonyms there are for greedy to get the gist.”
Despite Christine's general tone of savvy insouciance, her loneliness and mounting despair appear with sharp poignancy in this reflection as she struggles internally with the separation she's coming to accept as inevitable: "Whole sections of my life— our lives— were forbidden topics. No, more than forbidden. They’d virtually disappeared... There was no one in my current life who wanted to hear about my past. There was no past; we lived in the moment. Mother had reinvented us time and again. And would forever, I feared."
Patricia Abbott's next novel, Shot in Detroit, is due out in June. It should come as no surprise I've pre-ordered it for my Kindle.