MYSTERY

The Drama Teacher

Crown. Aug. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9780553448092. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780553448108. SUSPENSE
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Zailckas's second novel (after Mother, Mother) introduces a protagonist who is a grifter and a thief. But Gracie (or any of the other names she uses) is not your run-of-the-mill unreliable narrator. We soon learn she was raised to lie, steal, and run cons. In 2008, Gracie is struggling to maintain a middle-class life with her mostly absent husband and two children after the economic crash. She sneaks into a club in the Catskills with her son and daughter and befriends a wealthy woman at the pool. This relationship, aided by the lies of Gracie (now Tracey), grows quickly. The story unfolds over the next decade with occasional flashbacks to Gracie's life before the Catskills. In the end, the reliability of her memory and the stories she tells about herself come into question.
VERDICT A death, an investigation, and the past catching up to the present makes this a fast-paced, perfect poolside read. The seemingly straightforward narrative takes surprising, unexpected turns. The characters come to life and Gracie elicits sympathy, understanding, and horror in equal measures. For fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. [See Prepub Alert, 2/19/18.]

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