Annie Black seems to have the perfect life — a wonderful husband and three children. But when her oldest son is involved in a car wreck, secrets from Annie’s past rear their ugly head, threatening to destroy the life she’s built.
Told as a letter written from Annie to her comatose son A Small Indiscretion chronicles Annie’s life then and now and the mistakes she made along the way. At nineteen, Annie impulsively decides to head to Europe to find herself. What she finds instead is a job, working for an older, married man named Malcolm. A large part of her job involves going to the pub each evening with Malcolm and hearing about his wife and their unusual marriage — seems that the wife is having an affair with an artist named Patrick. Before long, Annie is drawn into this world and finds herself sleeping with Patrick all while fending off Malcolm’s growing advances.
Twenty years later, Annie has created a seemingly perfect life. Married to a doctor and running her own business, Annie seems to have it all. Until it all comes crashing down on her when an old face from the past emerges and her secrets begin to come to light.
I’ll give A Small Indiscretion credit for coming up with an interesting little twist that I didn’t necessarily see coming (I thought I’d figured out exactly what the titular indiscretion was long before Annie is ready or willing to reveal it to us) but that is nicely set-up and paid off during the course of the novel. The letter writing style is nicely done, allowing us to see inside some of Annie’s thought processes but only giving us as much or as little as she’s willing or able to give at the time.
And yet I couldn’t help but come away from the novel feeling a bit disappointed overall. The first and final thirds of the book are utterly riveting as we get to know Annie, her family and the situation. It’s in the middle third that I felt like things were treading water a bit, with Annie dropping hint after hint things but not offering anything more to her son and readers. I found myself growing frustrated with the middle section of the book wishing that Annie would tell us something that we didn’t already know already. Maybe that’s the point or what Jan Ellison is trying to have readers feel in this section.
Overall, the novel is a good one. I’ve seen the marketing materials compare it to The Girl on the Train which I think is a bit unfair to both books. This one is uniquely different and doesn’t have quite the same central, driving mystery Train does.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book as part of the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.