My Dead Friend Sarah by Peter Rosch
Overall: I think the title is misleading. I actually decided to read this book because I thought it was going to be a ghost story or at least have some paranormal/scary elements to it. The beginning was even more misleading because My Dead Friend Sarah starts with Max at the police station being drilled by a detective about his absurd defense – he knew that Sarah was going to die because he dreamed it months ago. The book switches between first person POV between Max and Sarah, but Sarah’s POV happened prior to the start of the story so it is a little confusing. About halfway into the book, I realize that this book is definitely not what I thought it would be. It is a story about a recovering alcoholic. The actual mystery/death of Sarah is a sub-plot.
I know that the book is written in first person, but I hate that the entire story is “told” and not once do I feel like I’m “in” a scene. It feels like someone is remembering something that happened in the distant past and the writing felt lazy…thus, I was bored by scenes that should of been exciting. On a side note, this was a quick read that I felt compelled to finish despite its short-comings. I don’t know why. But because I wanted to finish the story to find out what happened, I couldn’t give this book any less than two stars.
Characters: There are surprisingly few characters in the novel for dual POVs. Sarah doesn’t have her own cast of characters – she has her mother and Max. No friends. Max has his wife, his AA sponsor Sam, and his lawyer Jon. Max is really lucky to have Rachel. He’s been the worst possible husband. He cheats on her. He’s an alcoholic, who actually hit her once. And she stays by his side. It’s a really unhealthy relationship for her, although I imagine Max would of ended up in the gutter if not for his wife by his side, which is why she puts up with him. I didn’t really get specific personalities for Jon or Sam – since they’re only revealed through what Max says and Max is very selfish and doesn’t give a crap about either of them. Max is unlikeable, but he is the highlight of the novel – compelling to read about like a car crash is to watch. Sarah is a pathetic woman that I didn’t care about or understand. Max stalked her every move. She knew about it and didn’t think that was creepy. WTF?
Plot: Max has dreams about Sarah. Max stalks Sarah. Max talks to Sarah. Max breaks Sarah’s heart. Sarah dies a month later and Max finds himself questioned by detectives. It’s not a bad plot, but it’s sometimes hard to follow between the dual narratives – who aren’t entirely truthful even to the reader. I really wish that there was more focus on the scenes and less on the ins and outs of AA meetings and philosophies. I felt like both Max and Sarah were trying to convince me that what they were doing was okay. Max because he was addicted and Sarah because she was in love. But I wasn’t convinced and I don’t like being preached to. Both Max and Sarah (death is no excuse) have major mental issues and need to see another therapist before narrating another book.
Ending: The last quarter of the book felt increasingly abstract and boring. Max battles alcohol when I wish he would battle Sarah’s killer. Max reveals near the end that he’s known Rachel for 10 years, but they’ve been married for 10 years…so did he not know her at all before they decided to get hitched? Doesn’t make sense. And the very end? Very open-ended. I felt very disappointed.
Mere months into recovery, Max, an alcoholic with twisted control issues, meets Sarah – the same woman that for years he’s habitually dreamt will die after a botched abduction. “Doing the next right thing,” a popular AA phrase he’s picked up in the rooms, means befriending Sarah long enough to warn her and hope she takes him seriously. But when Sarah falls in love with Max, his newly sober thinking drives him to choose his overly devoted wife, and he abandons Sarah – even when it condemns her to death. When Sarah goes missing, the NYPD suspects Max’s dream may have been a pre-crime confession. The truth, all of it, lurks inside of Max, but only by drinking again does he recapture the nerve and clarity vital to free his wife, sponsor, and himself from a life imprisoned by lies.
This is not about a dead girl named Sarah. This is about an alcoholic named Max.
I received a copy of this book from the author (Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.
About the author:
(Information and picture obtained from Goodreads.)
Peter Rosch is what happens when a Polish drag racing varsity bowler and a beautiful but über paranoid French Canadian Air Force brat get together on a disco dance floor in glorious Albuquerque, NM. He’s a recovering alcoholic who favors the run-on sentence – the one thing for which he offers no apologies. Fifteen years in NYC as an award winning writer, creative director, and commercial director in advertising has left him moderately famous in an industry filled with the very best kind of people, lunatics. His commercial work for Levi’s, AXE, Rolling Stone Magazine, and more is polarizing, and you either hate it or love it because you’ve definitely seen it. When he isn’t writing ads, penning entries for his blog LEVEL 9 PARANOIA, outlining ideas for new books, or performing as his alter ego, Joey Jo Jo, in NYC’s most prolific douche rock band The Future, you will most likely find him playing fetch with his cat Target. Yes, his cat plays fetch.