• The Raising by Laura Kasischke

    On the campus of a prestigious American university, something is not right. Shelley witnessed a car accident that was ‘bloodless and beautiful’, not the horrendous scene described in the press. The dead girl, Nicole, thrown from the car, was a popular sorority girl, apparently clean-living and chaste. Her boyfriend Craig, driving on that night, cannot remember anything about the accident. Perry, his roommate, has become obsessed with the superstitions about the undead. And Lucas – he says that Nicole came to his room and had sex with him, weeks after her death.

    This novel uses the multiple view points of these characters, and of Mira, a young Professor teaching an anthropology course on ‘death and dying’ to weave back and forth around the events leading up to, and after, Nicole’s death. This keeps the mystery going, with hints as to what might have happened layering up during the book. The story starts slowly, however, as the setting of the university is described, and the characters introduced. Expecting something more like a conventional thriller, I was waiting for the novel to get going, but when the first of many surprising twists and turns happened, the pace of the earlier section made sense. Although the chopped up time-line can be a little confusing, this is deliberate, and as the story unfolds it becomes increasingly involving, and I could not stop reading it to the end in one go.

    It is difficult to say more about the action in this book without giving away any of the mystery around Nicole, but I will say that it is an excellent, believable plot, and that the central love story between Craig and Nicole really captures the emotional whirl of first real love – the sudden pointless quarrels and equally sudden moments of joy and delight in each other. Set against that teenage love, where everything seems possible, is the role – reversed marriage of Mira and Clark. Clark stays at home to look after their toddler twins, while Mira runs between work and home, trying to keep it all together. Theirs is a modern marriage, all about compromise, not talking, and attempts at time management. And underneath all that, this book explores grief, loss and how those left behind deal with bereavement.

    I really enjoyed this novel; the story is involving and interesting, and the characters are not the usual set of clichés. The plot gathers speed like a good mystery should, and there are plenty of surprises and dead ends along the way. The characters learn and grow up, and no-one in this plot is perfect, least of all Nicole herself. My only gripe is that the author assumes her readers are American, and attuned to the details of College life, with its sorority and ‘frat’ houses, tenured Professors and class differences between students paying and those on scholarships. However, if you’ve ever watched a campus movie, you will be able to get the scene, and most of it can be grasped by the context.

    I look forward to more from Laura Kasischke, and award The Raising 4 ½ Winos.


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