Addicted to Love by Kathleen Murray is a new adult novel that explores the concept of learning to accept oneself.
Sally Smithfield lives in a Chicago North Shore suburb in the 1970s. The novel chronicles Sally’s life from childhood to her adult years showing the devastating and long-lasting effects of child abuse, family secrets, love, and loss.
The author is quite ambitious in this new adult novel. Set in the seventies, Murray drops enough film and song titles and historical references to transport the reader back in time. She does this seamlessly without bonking the reader over the head with reminders that the characters are experiencing events that occurred decades ago.
Addicted to Love deals with several heavy topics, including physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Also included is teen pregnancy and how families back then dealt with the issue. While there are many scenes that make for uncomfortable reading, it’s not overly explicit, especially when the author deals with the sexual abuse. Most of that is told via a flashback that takes the reader by surprise.
The blurb claims that the novel is a thriller. The opening pages start with Sally sitting in a courtroom and her father is on trial. Without providing many details about the court case, the author jumps back to Sally’s childhood and then she takes her time bringing the reader back to the opening scene and the thriller component of the novel.
Backstory is important to every novel because characters and events don’t exist in a bubble. There has to be some explanation as to why people act in a certain way during particular instances. However, it’s possible to include too much backstory, bogging down the pace of the novel. For many chapters, the reader is introduced to interesting events in Sally’s childhood, but not everything pushes the plot forward.
Many of the characters are well developed, such as Camille, Sally’s best friend from grade school. Much time is devoted to their friendship, but then during their junior year in high school, Camille disappears from the story with very little explanation and not enough closure for the reader.
Sally’s childhood was unpleasant and filled with different types of abuse. As an adult, Sally doesn’t remember all that much about her childhood, and it’s easy for the reader to understand why she’s blocked it out. The author, though, tells Sally’s story starting with her childhood, making the reader wonder what they missed while reading the pages. Part of the issue is how the author developed the family members. Murray, for the sake of maintaining a sense of intrigue, kept many things from the reader. Sally’s mother is the most difficult character to figure out. At times she’s absolutely horrible to Sally, but at a pivotal point in the novel, she stays with Sally and it’s hard to understand why.
The final pages introduce a bombshell of a twist, however the uneven storytelling mutes its impact and it comes across as an afterthought. Overall, the story holds promise and has many wonderful scenes set in the seventies. However, more editorial guidance is needed to tighten the plotting of the novel, as well as characterization.