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'U' alum's debut novel excites, but falls short

BY HRIDAY SHAH
For the Daily
Published February 22, 2005

From its catchy title to the climactic conclusion, Megan Abbott’s fictional debut, “Die a Little,” is a sultry tale of jealousy, desperation and conspiracy. Abbott, a University alum, dramatizes the traditional tension between a sister and a sister-in-law during the first few months of a marriage.

Lora King’s life is turned upside down when her brother, a criminal investigator, marries the seductive Alice Steele. Ostensibly, Alice is the perfect wife. She is glamorous, a talented dancer and a wonderful homemaker. However, as Lora quickly begins to discover, there is more to Alice’s history than meets the eye. Discovering small inconsistencies in Alice’s past, Lora probes further. The deeper Lora digs, the murkier the story becomes and the more obsessed she gets with discovering the truth about Alice’s former life. Abbott’s writing style is gripping and conveys the urgency of Lora’s investigation while simultaneously creating the ambience of a room suffocatingly stuffed with cigarette smoke. Her short sentences make Lora’s descent into a world involving sadistic sex, despondency and murder fast-paced and thrilling.

Narrating through Lora’s first-person perspective, Abbott plunges the reader into Lora’s suspicious thoughts. The author also makes the story suspenseful by recounting it in present tense; it leaves Lora and the reader clueless as to what will happen next. She puts together a collage of Lora’s experiences that intertwine and generate the aura of mystery surrounding Alice. She structures the novel episodically, strategically omitting parts of the story. For example, she barely mentions the novel’s climax moment, leaving it entirely to the reader to sort out. This style of storytelling proves to be both interactive and exciting.

However, the novel lacks proper development of the relationships between characters. Abbott does not adequately describe the plot-propelling love between Lora and her brother. This detracts from the reader’s urge to find out more about Alice’s past and even tends to cause indifference toward the plot. This, in turn, makes it harder to identify with Lora. Abbott also fails to ascribe a setting to the plot, providing no hints as to when the story takes place; this together with the lack of development leaves the novel lackadaisical and comparable to a bad soap opera, at part.

Despite these weaknesses, the novel is supported by the plot’s adventurous scandals, risqu


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