That quote from the first season of Babylon Five applies in spades to the trio of protagonists in Michelle Sacks’ debut novel You Were Made for This.
When Sam inherits a house from his Swedish aunt, he and his wife Merry decide it’s the perfect time to move and set-up the perfect home for their newborn son, Conor. As Merry delves into becoming the perfect stay-at-home mother, Sam pursues his passion to become a filmmaker. But lurking below the surface are secrets that each is hiding from the other — whether it’s Sam’s real reason for fleeing his job as a professor or Merry’s true feelings on becoming a mother.
Enter into this scenario a visit from Merry’s oldest friend, Frank. Frank knows Merry better than anyone else and her visit begins to slowly shatter the illusion that Merry and Sam have built up. It also exposes some older, deeper wounds and resentments that Merry and Frank harbor from growing up together.
Told in alternating point-of-view chapters, You Were Made for This takes us deep inside the minds and secrets of all three characters, showing us some fundamentally flawed people all trying to put on their best face for each other and the outside world. Watching the cracks slowly deepen creates an building sense of horror and suspense as events slowly simmer to a boil.
And yet as unlikeable as each character becomes over the course of the novel, you still can’t look away from the events unfolding. It’s like reading a Hitchcock thriller on the printed page — lay the foundation and slowly watch as things spiral out of control. Like Hitchcock’s best, all the elements are put in place early and a lot of the suspense comes from slowly watching the bombs go off. Sacks also includes a few, well place misdirects, including one that came as a genuine, pleasant surprise that was well established looking back on the chapters from that person’s point of view.
This novel does have a few trigger warnings, though. If you’re not a fan of young children in peril, odds are this one will make you extremely uncomfortable. Sacks doesn’t pull any punches from Merry’s attitude toward Conor and his role in the event as they unfold.
The novel will make you angry, unnerve you, make you hate the characters and want to put it down before the inevitable happens. And yet, I couldn’t look away or stop turning the pages until we reach the end of the story.