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by Sally Hepworth and Barrie Kreinik & Jessica Douglas-Henry, narrators
Macmillan Audio/St. Martin's, April 2023
ISBN: 1250229707

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

There are two couples, with ties to one another, that could be vying for best soulmates. Gabe and Pippa are the Australian parents of two young girls. They live in their dream home on the cliffs just above the ocean, where Gabe has made a name for himself as a sort of suicide whisperer. The cliff behind their house is a famous suicide spot, nicknamed the "Drop," and Gabe has spent hours talking many potential jumpers out of taking that drastic move. Pippa (the breadwinner of the family) and Gabe (the stay-at-home dad) have made it through some very tough times and are now a supportive team based on a common ideal of loyalty.

Max and Amanda are a somewhat older couple who have never had children but have built a strong foundation on their common goals and values. Max is an uber-wealthy tech company owner while Amanda manages the domestic side of his life flawlessly. Their bond is less emotional than that of Pippa and Gabe, but it is no less strong, based as it is upon a common ideal of fidelity.

The two couples' stories collide when Gabe and Pippa see a woman at the Drop. Gabe goes out to help and, for the first time, is unable to save her. When the police arrive to begin an investigation, Gabe's story doesn't fit with what Pippa thought she saw out of the window. Thus begins a trip for the reader into the past. Hepworth moves us through time, providing glimpses into how Gabe and Pippa, and Max and Amanda, became more than just married couples, but also soulmates. Given to us in small doses, the couples' stories intertwine keeping us turning the pages as we attempt to figure out what the characters' relationships are and how they led to the fate of the woman at the Drop. All four characters are extremely well developed. In spite of mistakes each has made, Hepworth makes us care for them all and wish for the best for each.

The plot is quite complex, told from the perspectives of Pippa and Amanda…past, present, and near future. There is a strong sense of closure as the book draws to a close, both for the characters and for the reader. The tragedy of what happened on the cliff that day, and how each of the four characters is complicit, makes sense in a surprisingly comforting manner. The writing is very strong. In addition to a twisty and engaging plot and fully developed characters, Hepworth has given us beautiful and evocative writing about the location.

Because of the relationships that drive the plot, there is a bit of romance in this novel. However, the romance feeds the plot, rather than vice-versa, moving the book out of the realm of romance into that of a mystery/suspense novel. In the audio version, Amanda's and Pippa's characters are voiced by two different readers, and this helps to differentiate them as the book moves through time and perspective. The narrators bring each of the women's personalities to life, adding to the experience of listening to the book.

This is the first book by Sally Hepworth that I've read, although she has written many. I will definitely be looking for her in the future as well as reading some of her earlier novels.

§ Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in Arizona.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, April 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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