Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Expats by Chris Pavone

Title: The Expats
Author: Chris Pavone

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Marriage / Domestic Thriller / Luxembourg / Europe / American Expat)
Publisher/Publication Date: Broadway (1/22/2013)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Meh.
Did I finish?: I didn't.
One-sentence summary: Kate Moore, American expat in Luxembourg, has to deal with a professional mistake while hoping to make sense of her husband's changing behavior.
Reading Challenges: Immigrant Stories, 7 Continents, 7 Billion People, 7 Books

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it matches the genre and the focus of the story,

First line: "Kate?"

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow if you like thrillers featuring women and deceptive marriages.

Why did I get this book?: I'm envious of expats!

Review: I suppose it's inevitable that my streak of winning reads comes to an end. Sadly, this thriller just didn't catch my interest and I DNF'd at 103 pages after many fits and starts.

Essentially, American Kate moves to Luxembourg when her husband gets a lucrative job working with the banks there. As she is having professional angst, the move gives her an out. In Luxembourg, however, things aren't as they should be, stuff from the past shows up, secrets secrets secrets, etc. (I'm fuzzy on what the end is, of course, having not finished this book. But that's my guess.)

For me, the problem was our heroine, Kate Moore. And it's not her fault, I think -- I just really hated how Pavone wrote her. What late 30ish woman giggles when her husband scratches her palm to indicate his desire for sex? (And why can't he just flirt or make a pass like any other person? Every time Pavone had him hold Kate's hand, I wanted to shake it off to avoid weird palm scratching.) A woman who asserts constantly how much her husband needs her (lady doth protest too much, of course!), she makes a big deal about taking her husband's surname and giving herself a cute nickname when they move. If anyone is needy in this marriage, my bet is on Kate.

Despite her professional background (and we learn pretty quickly she's supposed to be a bad ass), Kate walks around oddly insecure, pathetic at moments. Pavone trots out the existential angst how-did-I-get-here housewife trope, which I'm so very sick of in commercial fiction. (I get waking up some mornings and wishing one was 25 again and all that jazz, but when our heroine moves in this fog every day and I'm not reading Betty Friedan or Sylvia Plath, I want her on antidepressants and at talk therapy.)  In the interest of avoiding spoiling any of the story, I won't say more than this: I really hate it when characters are all, 'oh, I can't do X because it will reveal all the truths about me' when X is saving one's self, acting competently, and/or have a rational response.

As I said, I gave up at about 100 pages in (of a 300 page book), still wondering where the thriller tension would kick in.  I had an idea about what the plot points were going to be based on all the hints Pavone was laying out, although 100 pages in, things were still pretty fuzzy. His narrative style is jumpy: the story is split between now and two years ago, and buried in the two-year old sections are memories and events from Kate's past. It felt a bit jumbled and confusing.

I suppose I was warned: The New York Times blurb includes this telling tidbit: "The tireless scheming of all four principals truly exceeds all sane expectations." I didn't get that far, but what I saw felt pretty nonsensical.

My GoodReads feed has a number of three to five star ratings for this book, so don't take my opinion solely; be sure to check out the others on the tour as well for more opinions!

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Expats to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 2/1.


  1. Being an expat isn't as much fun as it seems like it will be. Sorry this book didn't work for you.

  2. It is hard to enjoy a book when you do not like reading about the heroine of the story.

    1. I don't mind unlikeable characters if that's the point, but I think we were supposed to like Kate.

  3. I remember enjoying the book and can tell you the couple's so called friends turned out to anything but, as far as I remember.

    1. Harvee -- I figured as much. The skeezy club scene when they all first met clued me in that things were going to be sketchy between them!

  4. This was such a "meh" book for me. It just fell totally flat. And I wanted to like it so much!

  5. I don't think I would like this one. The main character sounds whiny and immature, and the fact that the writing is clunky and jumps around makes me pretty positive that this one is not for me. Thanks for the honest and unflinching review.

  6. "The tireless scheming of all four principals truly exceeds all sane expectations." <-- Ewwwww. That doesn't sound good to me at all. So not for me then.

  7. sorry this didn't work out for you but great honest review.

  8. I gave this novel a pretty decent review a year or so ago and will be reposting as part of this tour on Friday. However, absolutely nothing to do with plot or character has stayed with me. The only things I recall are enjoying the armchair travel and being really confused during all the jumping around. Probably not a good sign. Oh, and the ending stretched the bounds of plausibility beyond respectability.

  9. How disappointing! I first heard about this book a while ago through Shelf Awareness and was so intrigued I entered their giveaway. I guess I should feel relieved I didn't win! :)

    I thought this book would be a fun, brain fluff-y, weekend read. Looks like my time will be far better spent with other books.

    Hopefully your streak returns!

  10. Nonsensical is a pretty good way to sum it all up. I stuck with it, despite being completely annoyed with everything going on. Far too many twists and turns, and I don't see how anyone could easily following along with everything. I'm still not sure I understand everything I just read.

  11. The time shifts were the most irritating part of this novel to me as well...I was still backtracking close to the end. I hated the hints...they were too obvious, which is why, I think, it took so long for any tension to build up. Just about the time, the reader gets a little bit interested in finding out what's going to happen next, the author gave us the answer. I also didn't see the continuity between Kate the badass who could slit a man's throat without blinking (you probably didn't get to that part) and the worrisome ninny housewife she became. That didn't ring true for me at all. Overall I liked the book...I was in the mood for some brainless fluff and read it quickly.

  12. Sorry this one didn't work for you Audra, but thanks for being a part of the tour.