Staff Picks: A tender thriller, a father’s memoir, Jimmy Carter and wolves


Stephanie Merry, deputy editor

While I was on maternity leave, and consuming audiobooks like potato chips, I discovered a new barometer for measuring literary appeal. Some nights I wasn’t fazed if the baby awoke at 11 p.m., then 1 a.m., then 3 a.m.; in fact, I was excited to press play and answer the nagging question, “What happens next?” As you may imagine, few books reach Better Than Sleep status, but I found a handful. I wasn’t surprised that “Horse,” by Geraldine Brooks, was worth staying up late to finish, or that Barbara Kingsolver’s “Demon Copperhead” was hard to put down. But another book’s entry into this hallowed pantheon did shock me. On the surface, Gillian McAllister’s “Wrong Place Wrong Time” doesn’t differentiate itself substantially from any number of contemporary suspense novels, though it does bleed into other genres. The audiobook, beautifully narrated by Lesley Sharp, begins with a mother, Jen, witnessing her 18-year-old son brutally stab a man without apparent motive. In subsequent chapters, Jen finds herself jumping backward in time, giving her the chance to uncover what precipitated the violence so she can stop the attack from happening. The story is peppered with clever, nearly impossible-to-predict twists (at least for an addled, sleep-deprived brain), but what sets it apart is its tender portrait of motherhood and marriage. In my postpartum haze, I picked up McAllister’s book because I figured she would give me the tidy, satisfying conclusion my mind craved. She did, along with aching insights into what we’re willing to do — and what we’ll give up — to protect those we love.

POST AUTHOR: Washington Post Staff

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