So I came across Kathleen McKenna’s “The Wedding Gift” when perusing my backlog of NetGalley galleys I hadn’t reviewed and when I thought it had expired and I had no other copies of it lingering around – I ended up finding it among my many PDF copies that actually *didn’t* expire. At first I was elated and thought I could dive into a decent murder/mystery/suspense (bonus points because I love ghost stories), but then I read the book.
It was a waste of an hour of my time and some change. Enticing, exciting, or thrilling, this was not. More like an info-dumpy, repetitive, vain, and offensive mess. Leeann was such an insufferable character, and her voice has to be the most formulaic and inauthentic Southern U.S. character I’ve ever read. You know, people who live in the Southern U.S. don’t use “bless your heart” and “sugar” and such every other sentence. Nor do they place emphasis on random words (as evidenced in the italicized and capitalized font peppered through the character’s speeches). Not to mention the casual displays of racism in this work, what with the play of “West Side Story” being changed because the heroine’s father didn’t want her “starring in a play with no [insert Latin American racial slur here].” And the mention that the whole play was revamped to make sure that there were only white characters in the story.
And the MC has the audacity to say her father’s not racist – he’s just blissfully ignorant.
Then there are passages through the narrative like this one:
“God almighty, you never heard the like of the fight Jessie and I had that Saturday afternoon. She called me a gold digging little whore, and I called her jealous white trash, and hell it went on for about two hours, all while I was busy getting ready. I had told George I would get a ride to the airstrip and meet him at three. I had assumed Jessie would just be happy for me, but that girl went nuts.”
“I knew I should be acting all loving and jumping into the bed with him, but I used delaying tactics instead. I decided right then, and don’t ask me why, ’cause I don’t know myself, but I picked that moment to discuss with George why he didn’t ever use a condom. It was not very nice of me, considering what he had just given me, but somehow I didn’t feel too nice right then.”
“Four weeks later, all the poop in the whole world hit the fan that was my life, and I was about splattered from here to hell. I was late, maybe only a few days, but I had never been late before. I told Jessie, of course, and she was real good about it. She didn’t start in on me that minute, ’cause she said she was waiting to see how much of a dumb ass I was. She said she was waiting to “share her thoughts” with me until we established whether or not I was a pregnant dumbass, or just a regular dumbass. I was feeling real scared and humble, so I actually told her thank you, if you can believe it. ”
Imagine that kind of narrative going on for several chapters at a time, without really delving into the actual mystery this book purports to have in the blurb. I…just…no. I kept waiting for the story to actually start, but while the narrative in the very beginning of the book started with intriguing news clippings about a murder suicide and tales of deaths surrounding the old home where the murder-suicide took place, it took forever for the narrative to get back to that point and it wasn’t a satisfying read. As far as it being thrilling or scary? It really wasn’t.
On behalf of the poor execution, false promises, and general lack of a streamlined plot, I can’t recommend this book to anyone. The only thing decent about it was the premise.
Overall score: 0.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Bell Bridge Books.