After a mysterious fall from his New York City apartment, Philip Chase has moved back home with his mother, Charlene, a bitter woman who has never fully accepted the death of her younger son, Ronnie, five years earlier. Numb from watching too much television, rereading a tragic biography, and trading snipes with his mother, Philip is in stasis.
But everything changes late one windy February night when Ronnie's high school girlfriend shows up on their doorstep. A sad young woman who still bears the scars of the accident that took Ronnie's life on the night of their prom, Melissa has unexpectedly found hope. She is nine months pregnant. And the father, she claims, is Ronnie.
So begins this startling tale, which moves from one breathless surprise to another as Philip and his mother confront not only Melissa's past but their own. Their desperate search for answers takes them on a poignant and emotional journey, ultimately placing them in the path of murder and revenge.
At once a moving story of redemption and a heart-stopping work of suspense, Strange but True confirms John Searles's place among the most gifted voices of his generation. Beautifully written and charged with a sublime wit, the novel brings to vibrant life a cast of characters that no reader will forget.
Almost five years after Ronnie Chase's death, the phone rings late one windy February evening. Ronnie's older brother, Philip, is asleep on the foldout sofa, because the family room has served as his bedroom ever since he moved home from New York City. Tangled in the sheets -- among his aluminum crutch, balled-up Kleenexes, TV Guides, three remote controls, and a dog-eared copy of an Anne Sexton biography -- is the cordless phone. Philip's hand fumbles in the dark until he dredges it up by the stubby antenna and presses the On button. "Hello."
A faint, vaguely familiar female voice says, "Philip? Is that you?"
Philip opens his mouth to ask who's calling, then stops when he realizes who it is: Melissa Moody, his brother's high school girlfriend. His mind fills with the single image of her on prom night, blood splattered on the front of her white dress. The memory is enough to make his mouth drop open farther. It is an expression all of the...
With the keen perception and taut tension that made Boy Still Missing an acclaimed debut, John Searles returns with a haunting tale of family, mystery and miracles.
Strange but True begins just weeks after a bitter homecoming. Injured during a mysterious fall from his New York City apartment, Philip Chase is recuperating at his mother's home in a Pennsylvania suburb. She has never come to terms with the death of her other son, Ronnie, whose memory makes every day an emotional struggle for her and those around her. One night, Ronnie's high school girlfriend, Melissa Moody, arrives on their doorstep with shocking news: she is nine months pregnant, and the father, she claims, is Ronnie. The search for the truth ...
As the book title implies, this is a strange tale but one that, if read to the end, is all too credible. The mystery itself is gripping, but what stood out for me are the people in the book; Searles has vested even the most minor of players with full blown characters - so much so that I suspect that long after I'm struggling to recall the title of this book I'll still remember the Polish librarian, the elderly gay landlord, the Mexican waiter and many more.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (289 words).
John Searles is the author
of Boy Still Missing and Strange
But True, and the Deputy Editor at
Cosmopolitan where he oversees all book
excerpts and reviews for the magazine. His
essays, articles and reviews have appeared
in the New York Times, the Washington Post
and other national newspapers and magazines.
He lives in New York City.
When asked how he approaches ...
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