Review: Slip of the Tongue by Jessica Hawkins

Quick review for a rather compelling read. I probably think of this book on the same level as Megan Hart’s “Tear You Apart” – and considering how much I respect Megan Hart as a writer, that’s high praise, even if that wasn’t one of my favorite narratives in her bibliography. Jessica Hawkins’s writing pulled me into the novel from point one all the way to the very ending. I’m surprised how invested I was in this novel despite how frustrated I was with the very flawed cast of characters and their respective situations. Granted, I didn’t like the subject matter of this book (it deals with romantic relationships involving cheating), but I went into the book for the experience of the story. This narrative laid bare many of the complex emotions and flaws for each of the characters. I honestly understood and learned why each character acted and reacted the way they did. There are some clashes that feel formulaic for narratives of this genre, but I think Hawkins did a good job of adding layers of dimension, moral conflict and intimacy (physical, mental, emotional) throughout the narrative on more than one level.

This story centers on the experiences of Sadie, a woman disillusioned by the mounting distance between her and her husband Nathan. Granted, Nate is dealing with a number of different issues (i.e. his father dying, his and Sadie’s inability to have children) but Sadie feels completely shut out by his unjust attitudes, anger, and lack of intimacy with her (not just sex, though sex is a part of that consideration). Enter Finn, the next door neighbor who seems familiar to Sadie, and she seems to have a connection that feels familiar (though it’s later revealed in the narrative why it is familiar, so it isn’t really a case of instalove). As the distance between her and Nathan grows (and she suspects him of cheating with another woman because of his distance), she finds Finn to be a shoulder to lean on as well as well as someone to be intimate with. What happens in the mix of this is a smorgasbord of haphazard communications, presumptions, insecurities and clashes that are difficult to watch but still feel real enough that the reader can believe they would actually happen (Heck, I honestly think this whole novel could be something that a real couple goes through, though I’m not sure still how I feel about how the book ended – those threads were a little too neatly tied).

Sadie herself is insecure and often selfish in the mix of these clashes, but I found it refreshing that the narrative has its fingers on the pulse of some of these conflicts and actually takes the time to explore them rather than exploit them for the sake of drama. This book does not glorify cheating, despite times where it explores the physical intimacies of the characters in detail. Rather, it gives a really messy lens to the matter from the perspective of a woman who is at times sympathetic for her longing to resolve things with her husband and find things to fill the emotional voids she’s feeling, but at other times offputting for her lack of recognition for the needs and desires of the people around her. She’s at least self-aware enough to realize “Oh crap, I screwed up” on several occasions (though there are many occasions where she doesn’t go nearly far enough). I probably railed on each of the characters in this novel at least twice, so I can’t say that there’s any one character that I actually fully liked and stood behind through the narrative, but rather I saw certain situations and clashes where I was like “That’s a good point” or “That’s completely messed up” or “Dude/Woman bye” depending on the scene.

In other words, it definitely left me feeling a range of emotions through the work and I saw that to be a good thing despite moments where I sank down or squirmed in my seat. Maybe even watched/listened through my fingers.

In the end, I think “Slip of the Tongue” was worth the read and it definitely makes me curious to see what other work Jessica Hawkins has done. I went back and forth between what I wanted to rate this narrative given the portrayal of the subject matter. I’m settling at about 3 stars, because I’m on the fence about it even after I’ve turned the final page. Hawkins did well for the narrative pull of the story, keeping the reader on their toes for the root of the conflict and resolution while also being thorough, but certain elements still took away from the work to keep it from being a narrative I would want to re-read more than once or return to eagerly.

Overall score: 3/5 stars.

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