In September, on my honeymoon, I bought eight books from Gene's Books Store in Florida, which I mentioned in a previous review. One of the books I bought was Desire Lines by Christina Baker Kline. Most of the books I bought were ones that caught my eye based on the cover or the description on the back, but this one in particular was because of the author. Kline is a New York Times Bestselling author, whose works include Orphan Train and A Piece of the World. The genres of her works vary from suspense to historical fiction, which have received multiple international awards. Desire Lines is one of her first suspense novels that addresses the human psyche and examines the depths of obsession.
Kathryn Campbell finds herself newly divorced, with no job, and back in her hometown, Bangor, Maine living with her mother. As she seeks to find purpose in her life, she finds an opportunity to do freelance work for the local newspaper. However, this opportunity stirs up Kathryn's past and forces her to connect with old friends and examine a piece of her town's history that hits close to home. Ten years earlier, Kathryn's best friend, Jennifer left their high school graduation party, never to be seen again. An extensive search for Jennifer produced little information into her disappearance, and years later many have given up hope. Now, in the midst of her ten-year high school reunion, Kathryn has nothing to lose as she reignites the search to find the answer to Jennifer's disappearance. Kathryn finds that what she thought would only be a search for Jennifer is also a search for her own life's purpose.
Desire Lines focuses on obsession and the control it has over our lives if we let it take hold. Kathryn's obsession with the "perfect life" falls in line with her need to figure out what really happened to Jennifer. Desire Lines implores readers to examine the meaning of loss, the depths of relationships, and the meaning of home. It explores the boundaries of memory, and how each of us have a unique perception of the events and people in our lives. Though we may have at one time perceived one thing or person as good, someone else can have a totally opposite perception. In this ideal, the characters in Desire Lines each offer a different outlook for the reader to analyze. Kline offers enough details through Kathryn's personal thoughts and conversations with others to allow readers to formulate their own assumptions without giving too much away. Ultimately, the story was engaging, and allowed me to make my own inferences on Jennifer's disappearance and who could have been involved.
The ending left me somewhat disappointed because there were still questions left to the mystery, however, this disappointment shows that I was able to connect to Kathryn because she too had to come to accept that she was left with unanswered questions. For instance, the "how" and "why" of Jennifer's disappearance were left unanswered, yet Kathryn was able to accept the situation and move on with her own life. Though, I had an idea of what happened and who knew the truth throughout the entire novel, I never truly knew if I was right until the very end. In this way, the book hold readers with an intense level of suspense. Though this novel started off slowly, I became engaged once Kathryn's search began. My attention to the story dipped and waned every now and then when the story lost some of its thrill, yet once the intensity picked up I became, for the most part, captivated again.
As a side note, I read Orphan Train a few years ago, and recall genuinely enjoying the book. Since Desire Lines is one of Kline's earliest novels, it is exciting to see how her writing style has developed over the years. With her overall genre of writing varying from suspense to historical fiction, it was interesting to consider her voice in each book. After having read two of her books, I feel comfortable in recommending her works to other readers. Though I feel Orphan Train was better developed, Desire Lines, in particular, had a way of drawing me in and getting me engaged, right when I thought I would lose interest. The appeal of this book lies in Kline's ability to keep readers guessing, and makes for a quick and stimulating read. Though it is not as good as her other works, this book is a good pick for readers who enjoy a quick but thought provoking thriller.
Title: Desire Lines
Author: Christina Baker Kline Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (1998)
Purchasing Information: Bought for $7 at Gene's Books Store; Currently $12.22 on Amazon.