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Gina SorellRecensioner

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Oof. This is so poorly written. The first chapter is just exposition drop central without a single interesting turn of phrase (but more than its share of cliches). Pass.
 
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sparemethecensor | 1 annan recension | Mar 14, 2024 |
Two sisters in New York City, one married and one not married, rely on each other for support through a floundering marriage, and stressful career, a young son on the autism spectrum and a mother who they felt neglected them while she established herself as an advice columnists. Just when things begin to get really complicated for both daughters, the mother swoops in with some not-so-bad advice.
 
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mojomomma | Nov 6, 2022 |
To be honest, I thought MOTHERS AND OTHER STRANGERS was a thriller. At least that is the feeling I got from the book's blurb. The first thing the blurb says about the book is: "My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen, and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man's child, she accepted." Wow, that is what I call a captivating line. I just had to read this book! Alas, this book is not a thriller. It's about a woman finding herself, learning more about the past, and finding peace.

READ THE WHOLE REVIEW OVER AT FRESH FICTION!
 
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MaraBlaise | 15 andra recensioner | Jul 23, 2022 |
This book grabs you at the opening lines and won't let you go.
Elsie dreams of fire and doesn't fully understand how deep her mother's ties to a group called the Seekers was until her mother's death. The discovery of a bundle of photos & a priceless ring take Elsie from her home in Canada to Africa on a journey that leads her to the past she never knew she had.

A stunning, rich and heartfelt debut of suspense.
 
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ShannonRose4 | 15 andra recensioner | Sep 15, 2020 |
This book grabs you at the opening lines and won't let you go.
Elsie dreams of fire and doesn't fully understand how deep her mother's ties to a group called the Seekers was until her mother's death. The discovery of a bundle of photos & a priceless ring take Elsie from her home in Canada to Africa on a journey that leads her to the past she never knew she had.

A stunning, rich and heartfelt debut of suspense.
 
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ShannonRose4 | 15 andra recensioner | Sep 15, 2020 |
Mothers and Other Strangers has a killer opening line: My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was 19, and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man's child, she accepted. It's hard to beat an opener like that, and impossible for the rest of the book to live up to the promise of that one perfect sentence.

Elsie is thirty-nine, but still living under the shadow of having been raised by a neglectful, self-involved woman. After her mother dies, she goes back to Toronto to clear out and sell her mother's apartment. The act of being back brings back memories and brings her back into contact with the odd, Scientology-like sect her mother had belonged to. They break into her mother's apartment, looking for something they don't find, but it's the tentacles they've left in Elsie's mind that prove to be the greater danger. Elsie was born in South Africa and still has vivid memories of the fire that killed her father and separated her from the woman who cared for her. Elsie is then raised in Canada, without any contact with any relatives in South Africa and as she finds clues in her mother's things she realizes she has to confront not only the religious sect that took over her mother's life, but also the past left behind in South Africa.

In many ways, this is a typical novel of the kind that involves a woman in peril who has to follow clues to resolving her past while protecting herself from nebulous dangers. But Gina Sorell writes well and the plot is unpredictable and eventful enough to keep the pages turning. It was impossible for any debut novelist to fulfill the promise of the opening sentence, and the ordinariness of the resulting novel was a disappointment, but Sorell shows enough promise there for me to look forward to whatever she writes next.½
 
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RidgewayGirl | 15 andra recensioner | Dec 29, 2017 |
Elsie had spent the majority of her life estranged from her mother and despite her attempts at therapy and self-help, she never fully recovered from her mother's passive disinterest in her life. As a young girl, Elsie's mother spent more time charming strangers and participating in a religious cult than she did parenting. Elsie learned from early on that efforts to try to elicit attention from her mother would almost certainly be unsuccessful.

So when Elsie's mother passes on from cancer, Elsie is notified as the next of kin and executor of her will. Her mother's entire life had been a mystery to her and as she begins to sort through her mother's belongings, Elsie gradually learns that her mother was hiding some deep secrets about her past, which others wanted to keep hidden. As she sorts through her mother's secret life, Elsie comes to realize that the decisions she has made with others (ex-husband, etc.) have all stemmed from her unresolved relationship with her mother and a past that she never understood.

This novel seemed to be a hybrid of women's fiction, mystery, and a cultural narrative. I became absorbed in the storytelling, which I found to be well-written. Although I would have preferred the plot to move a little faster, I thought the mother's narcissistic and self-absorbed character was dead-on accurate. The feelings of rejection and confusion that Elsie experienced, due to no fault of her own, were real and palpable. I thought this was a very realistic portrayal of the emotional and hidden damage that a narcissistic mother can do to a daughter, who spends her whole life wondering why she was never good enough or interesting enough to garner her mother's attention. A great debut novel by a gifted storyteller.
 
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voracious | 15 andra recensioner | Sep 11, 2017 |
In writing programs and publications, everyone talks about first lines. They're important. Attract the reader with a stellar first sentence. Give them a solid few pages and you've got them hooked. Gina Sorell and her publisher clearly know about first lines. Not only does Mothers and Other Strangers begin with a wonderful and interesting first sentence, it's even an integral part of the book blurb: My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen, and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man's child, she accepted. I decided to repeat it and write it in bold to give the author one final promotion before I tear this book apart.

I liked the line. It showed intelligence and it piqued my interest. The paragraphs that followed in the prologue were good, too. Five pages of great writing. And then, chapter one.

With chapter one, and every page that followed, the story lost credibility. The characters and their interactions were not believable. There's the sexy ex-husband stuck in a dead-end marriage. The apartment's concierge who's always friendly, full of advice, and apparently never leaves his post. The cat who chases away burglars and eats pea soup. The owner of the vegan cafe who happens to keep non-vegan options readily available in the event a sane person with taste wanders into his restaurant. You may believe these wooden characters and you're entitled to, but I didn't. Every setting, every character, and every action was an obvious ploy to advance the plot. But the plot itself becomes a mess. While you'd expect Elsie to unravel the big secrets promised in the opener, she spends more time talking about the existence of big secrets than making efforts to solve them.

Then there are the things that really piss me off, like the disturbing sexuality of the novel. It's one thing if you're writing a psychological piece about a girl with a hyperactive and confused sex life; it's another to just throw it in haphazardly. Elsie is a messed-up girl, undoubtedly, but her actions are not explained, nor are they conducive to the plot—they were added for the sake of tension. Is it okay to include a character who believes that she asked to be raped and should remain silent out of embarrassment? Yes. Absolutely. Let's not shy away from the way some people truly think. But should we perpetuate those myths without further exploration or without the least bit of retrospection? Should we normalize such behaviors? Ugggh. Last book I read that I disliked this much was Fates and Furies, but everyone loved that one and I was clearly wrong about my disdain for that story, so I must be wrong about this well-liked story as well.

Honestly, there are some good ideas in this novel and those are probably what kept me going. Unfortunately, the implementation felt completely wrong to me. What Mothers and Other Strangers reminded me of was a screenplay for a Lifetime movie. I've enjoyed a few Lifetime movies in my years, but I recognize the overacting, the convenient story line, and the sprinkling of big issues for what it is. Mothers and Other Strangers would make a decent made-for-tv movie where such devices are expected. But if I'm to believe the recommendations on the cover of the novel, Sorell's debut fails as an “absorbing,” “stunning [2x],” “delightful,” “brilliant,” and “sensitive (???)” novel.

Oh, by the way, that first sentence is totally misleading... Not really her father. Also not at gunpoint, at least not the way that's implied. The author is pulling a fast one over on the readers, so I'm calling it out. But at least I have the decency to put it between spoiler tags. You're welcome.
 
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chrisblocker | 15 andra recensioner | Aug 29, 2017 |
I got this book as a review copy from Library Thing's early reviewer program. It's really just the kind of book that I love, love, love. Great character studies and character development, coming of age stuff. First person and a little bit of plot twist. Of course I always love the psychological thriller aspect, a little bit of narcissistic personality and I'm sold! Kept me turning pages until the last page. I'll definitely be looking for more from this author!
 
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psychomamma | 15 andra recensioner | Jul 7, 2017 |
I really liked this book. So much so that I kept trying to read it instead of playing with my kids. It had a good mix of flashback and present-day and explaining things as they went along. I kind of wanted a more wrapped up ending, but it was close enough. Although the situations in the book weren't pleasant at all, it felt like a nice read for me, good pacing and interesting.
 
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emily.ann | 15 andra recensioner | Jul 1, 2017 |
If ever a novel got off with a bang, Mothers and Other Strangers, by Gina Sorell is that novel. However, there is another maxim used mainly in the theatre but quite apropos here: If you are going to show a gun, you had better fire it. Sorell’s novel begins with the sentence, “My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man's child accepted.” This sentence was part of the promotions and book blurbs I read that caused me to without hesitation push that “buy button.”
The gun never gets fired. In fact, the gun is not even pointed at the woman in question’s head. When this scenario is finally explained fully, it is Elsie’s father who is pointing the gun at himself and threatening suicide. Quite a different take, and already I began to feel a victim of a bait and switch. Despite the rash of rave reviews on the back of the book, and the expectations raised in that first sentence what follows is a rather dismal journey of an anti-heroine with no spine and her narcissist mother.
The mother-daughter relationship is painful and never resolved. The author makes an attempt at a resolution, but like much of the book, the reasoning is weak and illogical. I kept waiting for this young woman to stand up and shout – fire that gun if you will—but she never did. Indeed, most of the characters are flat, two dimensional, and we are told how they feel, very rarely shown, very rarely brought into their universe. For example, I never understood why Elsie simply accepted meekly her mother’s continued absence from her dance recitals, and good Lord, her flirting with her boyfriends! Fire that gun, Elsie!
Mothers and Other Strangers is a debut novel, and the story itself is interesting and unique. I am sure many will enjoy this one. She is a writer with a lot of promise, and so I am sure we will see more of her. I will be more than happy to pick up her next book and give it a go.
1 rösta
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leighpod | 15 andra recensioner | Jun 29, 2017 |
I received an Early Reviewers copy from LibraryThing of Mothers and Other Strangers. If the whole book had been like the first sentence, it would have been incredibly good. Unfortunately, it was not. The idea of the story was intriguing, but the storytelling was just okay. I didn’t feel anything from the characters, not even the main character, Elsie. I didn’t like or dislike her; I didn’t feel sorry for her; there just wasn’t anything there. I kept reading only because I wanted to know the secrets, which turned out to be surprising, but by that point, they weren’t enough.
 
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mtlkch | 15 andra recensioner | Jun 28, 2017 |
The first sentence of this novel intrigued me, but unfortunately, the remainder of the story failed to hold my interest. I could not connect to the characters and found myself too impatient with them and the story to finish more than halfway.
 
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readaholic12 | 15 andra recensioner | Jun 27, 2017 |
I love novels about uncovering family secrets so this novel should be right up my alley. Because I love this genre, I enjoyed this read. But it's far from perfect. It suffers from first novel syndrome in its execution, and perhaps worst of all, the family secrets are (a) revealed all at once (b) by a conversation with a new character who just knows everything (c) and are pretty disappointing. So yeah. Really disappointing conclusion to the story.

I'll also note that there is a problematic infertility plotline that hurt me as a woman currently experiencing infertility. The author should have talked to some women in this situation before trying to show what a woman with IF would feel.
 
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sparemethecensor | 15 andra recensioner | Jun 24, 2017 |
Elsie has never been close to her mother, as it's been clear all her life that the woman cared far more about the cult-like group she was involved in than she did about her daughter. Now that her mother is dead, though, Elsie regrets not knowing her better. Which she might still have a chance to, when she's given some clues that may expose secrets about her family's past.

This is a first novel, and unfortunately I think it shows. There's nothing about the writing that's actively bad, but it all feels a little... weak. At the beginning, we seem to mostly be flatly told how Elsie is feeling without ever really getting into her head in a way that let us experience things with her, which left me feeling very distant from her as a character. That improves later in the novel, I think, but she still never quite feels so much like a three-dimensional person as an itemized list of emotional damage. I also found some of the details a little unconvincing, while others were annoyingly missing. It wasn't until two thirds of the way through that I finally got an answer to the question of how old Elsie actually was, for instance, and while we're told a lot about her professional dance career, I had to piece together from clues late in the novel exactly what kind of dance she did. (I think it was ballet?)

And the story itself was a bit disappointing. Just as I was starting to get really interested in the family mysteries that were hinted at and ready for some juicy revelations, that part of the plot was put on hold in favor of extended flashbacks to Elsie's youth, and then when the expected revelations finally came at the end of the book, not only was I now feeling less interested, but they turned out not to be very exciting.

On the other hand, Elsie's narcissistic mother, in the glimpses we got of her, was a really interesting character, and the nature of the relationship between the two of them feels painfully true to life, and I give the book definite points for that. Or an extra half-star on the rating, at least.

Honestly, despite how negative most of my comments above may seem, this was mostly an okay read. But I was hoping for something a bit better than okay.
1 rösta
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bragan | 15 andra recensioner | Jun 24, 2017 |
"Mothers and Other Strangers" by Gina Sorell is a very intriguing and captivating novel. I read this in one sitting and didn't want to put it down. The genres of this novel are Women's Fiction, Fiction, and Mystery. The very first sentence draws you in." My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man's childish accepted".

The author describes her characters as complicated and complex. Elise, the daughter of the above mother, finds that upon her mother's death, she is left with a legacy of debts, dishonesty, mystery, and many secrets. Unfortunately Elise has not been close to her mother for years. Elise's mother was selfish, competitive, uncaring, and not affectionate.

There are many twists and turns, Elise embarks on an adventure of discovery to find out her family roots, and the truth. Elise's mother had friendships of question with incredulous people. Elise is longing to find herself, and where she belongs.

The author talks about family, betrayal, secrets, friendship and hope. What makes a family? What roles should a mother and daughter have? What is important in life?

I would highly recommend this enjoying book. I received an ARC for review for my honest review and opinion.
 
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teachlz | 15 andra recensioner | Jun 24, 2017 |
Not a bad book, but boy did Elsie’s crying and barfing get old. That’s about all she did apart from worry and stress. Granted, her mother was awful. Narcissism is never pretty, but in a parent it’s deadly and Rachel really screwed up her kid. That’s the bulk of the story, however, Elsie’s psychological problems and their ripples in her life. I thought there would be more of a mystery about what her mom was hiding and more focus on the present aspects of trying to solve it. Instead we get Else’s terrible childhood, abuse by various men and her subsequent flight into a marriage that should have been the saving of her, but she couldn’t let it be. For those reasons I can’t rate it too highly, but neither would I avoid another book by Sorel.
 
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Bookmarque | 15 andra recensioner | Jun 14, 2017 |
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