Top critical review
Summation < Action
on June 24, 2011
Back in college, I had a creative writing professor who always emphasized "action" over "summary"; I don't mean action in the thriller/suspense meaning of the word, but in the simple understanding that characters are "doing" something in the here and now. "I'd Know You Anywhere" has trouble finding its balance between the two. Don't get me wrong--the premise stands strong (a woman being the only survivor of a killer being contacted some twenty years later) and the story itself is, I believe, one definitely worth telling, but something doesn't fit.
For a story with so much potential, we linger in the depths of summation for the majority of the book. Even scenes/chapters with minor, minor characters with little to do seem to be stretched out far too long--and it's not because there's much going on. For example: one chapter finds a character sitting in a closet; we find out about this character's backstory, her history with her husband, etc, but she's not doing anything. That same character, a few chapters later, spends about ten pages walking around a house before she knocks on the door--not because she's doing anything, but simply because Lippman can't stop herself from overloading us with details and backstory. I commend her for knowing each and every one of her characters so well (okay, except for Peter, who has very, very little to do), but at some point, I wish her editor had said, "You know, Laura, I think we know enough about [this person], I think it's time to move the story forward."
Aside from the overly-saturated summaries, what disappointed me more was the last fourth of the book; an endgame that doesn't deliver on its promises, characters that were once incredibly frightening becoming nothing more than meek versions of their former selves, and a climax that just sort of falls flat. For all of the character background and exposition that we get throughout the three-hundred-and-fifty pages leading up to the end, I was hoping that book would finally get some real momentum, but Lippman just lets the story kind of fizzle out. I'll be honest--there was a point half-way through the book, where a conversation between Eliza/Elizabeth and Walter hinted at what could have been a magnificent twist to the plot, and when I reached the climax, that twist was what I was hoping for (for myself and for the book itself, just to take it to an entirely different level), but it was not made to be.
Lippman's a great writer of sentences, and she knows how to create tension, but I wish that tension would have gone somewhere more exciting. I'll have to try out another one of her's (this was my first) in the future.