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Unbecoming: Book summary and reviews of Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

Unbecoming

A Novel

by Rebecca Scherm

Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm X
Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm
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Book Summary

On the grubby outskirts of Paris, Grace restores bric-a-brac, mends teapots, re-sets gems. She calls herself Julie, says she's from California, and slips back to a rented room at night. Regularly, furtively, she checks the hometown paper on the Internet. Home is Garland, Tennessee, and there, two young men have just been paroled. One, she married; the other, she's in love with. Both were jailed for a crime that Grace herself planned in exacting detail. The heist went bad - but not before she was on a plane to Prague with a stolen canvas rolled in her bag. And so, in Paris, begins a cat-and-mouse waiting game as Grace's web of deception and lies unravels - and she becomes another young woman entirely.

Unbecoming is an intricately plotted and psychologically nuanced heist novel that turns on suspense and slippery identity. With echoes of Alfred Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith, Rebecca Scherm's mesmerizing debut is sure to entrance fans of Gillian Flynn, Marisha Pessl, and Donna Tartt.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Scherm's debut has a plot that twists and turns, but it is the enigma of who Grace really is that will keep readers hooked until the very end. A bleak tone, deeply flawed protagonist, and dysfunctional relationships will draw well-deserved comparisons to Gillian Flynn." - Library Journal

"More thrills and less ponderous thinking about thrills would have made this an impressive first novel. Instead, it's a decidedly mixed bag, taking too long to gather the momentum it needs to succeed as crime fiction and not quite making the cut as satisfying literary fiction, either." - Kirkus

"Scherm mixes a character study with a caper novel full of double-crosses, lies, and betrayals, as when Grace is robbed immediately after selling the stolen painting. She is at her best when describing precious objects: a Dutch master's still life, a James Mont cigar box with hidden compartment, an ornate centerpiece with fanciful fruit and figurines, and silver spoons ignored by their owners but appreciated by the professional hired to evaluate them." - Publishers Weekly

"From the first page, you know Rebecca Scherm is the real thing. Unbecoming is an assured exploration of the intricate, intense, risky processes that go into creating identity—and into dismantling it." - Tana French

"Rebecca Scherm's extraordinarily confident voice and style, this novel's depth of detail—great characters and a terrifically engaging plot—are a sheer delight to read. There is something very fresh and captivating about this book, and best of all I had no idea what was going to happen from one page to the next." - Kate Atkinson

This information about Unbecoming was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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techeditor

Scherm leads you to conclusions you will not expect
UNBECOMING is a novel I forgot I had among my many to-read piles until I came across it at a used book sale. Then I remembered going to see Rebecca Scherm at an author event in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2016. So, better late than never, I read this novel and am so pleased.

Grace is a troubled girl who befriended and fell in love with Riley when they were still in grade school. She found, in his family, a family for herself to love and, more importantly, to love her. Grace particularly loved, and loved being loved by, Riley‘s mother.

As Grace grows older, she finds she is attracted, more and more, to deviant behavior, stealing. By the time she and Riley are in their 20s, because he loves her so much, she eventually pulls him in, too. When the two of them concoct a scheme to steal millions of dollars worth of items from a historic home in their Tennessee town, it is their plan for Grace to move overseas, where Riley will later join her. At the same time, though, she plans to meet Riley‘s friend overseas. And what a tangled web she weaves!

There is a lot more to the story, but I hope I haven’t already told you too much. Scherm leads you to conclusions you will not expect and may not even like. But you sure should like the story better because she does.

This makes me anxious to read another book by Scherm. But I searched the Internet and could find no information about her since 2016. I finally did find a sentence and some book ratings she wrote in 2020 on Goodreads.com. I hope that means she’s coming out of hiding.

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Author Information

Rebecca Scherm

Rebecca Scherm holds an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers Program at the University of Michigan, where she currently teaches. Her work has appeared in Subtropics, The Hairpin, Hobart, and Fiction Writers Review.

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