Book Title and Author: Half of What You Hear by Kristyn Kusek Lewis
Publication Date and Publisher: December 31, 2018 by Harper
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Mystery, Domestic Drama
Pages: 384 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: November 19, 2018 (e-arc)
Greyhill, Virginia—refuge of old money, old mansions, and old-fashioned ideas about who belongs and who doesn’t—just got a few new residents. When Bess Warner arrives in town with her husband Cole and their kids, she thinks she knows what to expect. Sure, moving to Cole’s small hometown means she’ll have to live across the street from her mother-in-law, and yes, there’s going to be a lot to learn as they take over Cole’s family’s inn-keeping business, but Bess believes it will be the perfect escape from Washington. She needs it to be. After losing her White House job under a cloud of scandal, she hardly knows who she is anymore.
But Bess quickly discovers that fitting in is easier said than done. Instead of the simpler life she’d banked on, she finds herself preoccupied by barbed questions from gossipy locals and her own worries over how her twins are acclimating at the town’s elite private school. When the opportunity to write an article for the Washington Post’s lifestyle supplement falls into Bess’s lap, she thinks it might finally be her opportunity to find her footing here…even if the subject of the piece is Greyhill’s most notorious resident.
Susannah “Cricket” Lane, fruit of the town’s deepest-rooted family tree, is a special sort of outsider, having just returned to Greyhill from New York after a decades-long hiatus. The long absence has always been the subject of suspicion, not that the eccentric Susannah cares what anyone thinks; as a matter of fact, she seems bent on antagonizing as many people as possible. But is Susannah being sincere with Bess—or is she using their strangely intense interview sessions for her to further an agenda that includes peeling back the layers of Greyhill’s darkest secrets?
As Bess discovers unsettling truths about Susannah and Greyhill at large, ones that bring her into the secrets of prior generations, she begins to learn how difficult it is to start over in a town that runs on talk, and that sometimes, the best way to find yourself is to uncover what everyone around you is hiding….
Half of What You Hear by Kristyn Kusek Lewis is a fast-paced, compelling page-turner that reminded me so much of what it’s like growing up in a small southern town! When you grow up or live in a small town like Greyhill, the small, old-moneyed Virginia town, in Lewis’ newest novel, everybody knows everybody else and if they don’t, many of them try and find out everything they can about you until they think they know you. You can’t go outside without someone you know stopping to give or get the latest gossip, which will then be passed all over town by the end of the day…and never told the same way twice! Oh, the gossip and secrets! That’s one thing that seems to keep small southern towns a buzz even if the secret was never supposed to be shared!
After a shocking episode that causes her to be fired from her job as the social secretary at the White House working for the first lady, Beth Warner is ready for a more carefree and relaxed life where she can begin recovering from her very public humiliation, but she doesn’t bargain with the struggle to fit in with Greyhill, the sleepy southern town where everyone, including her husband Cole, has been friends since practically birth and she’s viewed as an outsider, especially by the pack of gossipy, petty adult women who have the high school mentality that they run the town. Even her own mother-in-law is overly critical and her kids are pushing her away, especially her daughter as she struggles to fit into her new school. Beth feels more lost than before since she can’t find a way to adjust to her new life in her town.
When Bess is offered the opportunity to interview Susannah Lane, Greyhill’s most famous and mysterious resident, for the Washington Post, she accepts since she thinks this will be a way to get a foothold in with the town since tongues have been non-stop wagging since Susannah’s return after living in New York City for decades! Beth finds that she starts to hit it off with Susannah but when Susannah starts to spill shocking and disturbing secrets about the past, Beth can’t help but wonder about Susannah’s motives. Can Susannah be trusted? Or is she crazy like town gossips say she is?
I really enjoyed this domestic drama! It has a great plot with an intriguing mystery in it that I didn’t expect. The cast of characters were all enjoyable even the side characters, and Susannah is one lively character that I won’t forget for a long time! I had to shake my head at several of the characters when they were gathered to gossip because some just had no clue that they were being talked about in another part of the book!
Lewis really portrays the power gossip has to destroy someone unless a person is willing to search for and speak the truth. A great lesson in only believing half of what you hear unless you know it’s the truth! I definitely recommend it to fans of contemporary women’s fiction and light domestic drama…if you’re a fan of Emily Giffin, Elin Hilderbrand, or Liane Moriarity, then I think you’ll like this one but expect to be transported to a southern setting where the tea is sweet and the gossip not so much! Half of What You Hear releases on December 31, 2018, so make sure you grab a copy!
**Thank you Edelweiss and Harper for an ARC copy to read in exchange for my fair and honest review. **