To the Edge of Shadows by Joanne Graham

To the Edge of ShadowsTo the Edge of Shadows by Joanne Graham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To the Edge of Shadows is a very difficult book to categorize or talk about without giving away key plot points, but I will do my best to write about it without revealing spoilers.
First of all, I eagerly anticipated To the Edge of Shadows, Joanne Graham’s second novel, after falling in love with the characters and world she created in her debut, Lacey’s House. You can see my review of that novel here…
That said, To the Edge of Shadows is an ambitious second novel that bridges several genres, including fiction focused on the lives of women, as well as suspense and mystery. Major themes of the novel include grief, abuse, memory, and self-actualization.
Graham has a recognizable voice as a writer, one which often borders on the poetic. At times, this voice works well to convey the sense of being lost, or undefined, which her characters struggle with. In Graham’s debut novel, Lacey’s House, this poetic voice was used with great success for an older character who was dealing with memory issues, while her younger friend seemed slightly more concrete and immediate.
To the Edge of Shadows also follows the intertwining narratives of two women. However, in this novel, I found the descriptive writing style to be overpowering at times, such that it slowed down the pace and immediacy of the story.
Some other impressions I have after finishing To the Edge of Shadows:
Part of what I really enjoy about Graham’s writing is that she has the ability to create an atmosphere of warmth and comfort, a feeling that you are in a cozy pink bedroom with a softly glowing nightlight, warm hot chocolate, and comfy pajamas. In fact, scenes very similar to this exist in To the Edge of Shadows, and combined with one of the main characters, the gentle and affectionate Aunt Leah, Graham is able to create a singularly lovely sense of place.
At the same time, Graham is able to write authentically about the horror of violent death, abuse, and fear. Her writing is never excessively gory, but rather, is powerful because it feels true.
So Graham is talented in that she is able to write a story that is (at different times) lovely, and terrifying.
So here’s the thing. The twist, and there is a big one, was something I realized 1/3 of the way into the novel. It seemed so obvious to me that I thought I couldn’t be right. I kept reading, wondering if the author’s intention was for the reader to guess so early on, or if this was a red herring. I was slightly disappointed when, near the end of the novel, my suspicions about the twist were proved true.
However, after that (and this is where Graham really excels) the way that Graham examines the repercussions of the twist on her characters’ lives, makes the story something special.
Joanne Graham writes books that no one else could write, with characters who are truly her own. But she writes in such a way that she gently draws readers into her imaginary world, and leaves us with deeper empathy for others, as well as a greater understanding of ourselves.
To the Edge of Shadows is, in some ways, a more ambitious novel than Lacey’s House, in that it attempts to be a thriller as well as a character-driven narrative. While it does not fully succeed at the suspense element, I admire that Joanne Graham is expanding her horizons as a writer. This second novel has flaws, but it also has much to recommend it, and I look forward to seeing where Joanne Graham’s imagination and talents will take us next.
I’d like to thank Legend Press who allowed me access to the arc of To the Edge of Shadows through NetGalley.

View all my reviews

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