Book Critique - Under Currents

Stars: 3.5 / 5

Recommendation: Certainly a morbid topic, yet Nora weaves a charming tale that shines a positive light despite the darker shades hidden under. 

Under Currents is the 80th stand-alone novel by Nora Roberts published in July of 2019. The central plot revolves around Zane Bigelow - an attorney in the town of High Country - and Darby McCray - a Landscape Artist who is settling her roots in the same town.

Zane Bigelow grew up in a perfectly kept house in the Blue Ridges of North Carolina with his sister, Britt. Only the house isn't as perfect as it seems from outside. Appearances are not what they seem to be in reality fooling everyone around them until one fateful night when Zane and Britt are finally freed from the clutches of terror. Years later, now that Zane and his sister are comfortable settled on the other side of the lake. But his constant fear of the past coming back lurks at the corner.

Nora has explored a very sensitive topic that is often not addressed or even looked at until it is too late - child abuse. How abused as children they might be, the main characters turn their world around with proper family and friends support and a will to be different. And she also touches on other kinds of abuse that are sometimes by products of child abuse. The entire plot was filled undercurrents at every turn, yet they all see a shining light despite the circumstances.

This has been a common topic in her recent prints lately - some form of abuse she addresses either as the main plot or part of the plot. Be it her 2015 book The Liar or 2016 book The Obsession or the 2017 book Come Sundown. Not that each of them are different plots, perhaps Nora would venture into some other topics in her next book. 

Nora Roberts again divided the book into parts, and each part prefixes with a one-leafed page that has a title and a few quotes; more than often the quotes revealing what the reader could expect in that part - The Cruelty of Lies; Homecomings; From Roots to Blooming; Healing Truths

Nora has so much details about landscaping and gardening in the plot that it reminded me very distinctly of one of her other series, In The Garden Trilogy. Although in that plot she focused more on gardening, plants and green houses. In this she ventures into landscaping that involves more than plants. 

Contrary to the innovative and intriguing names that Nora normally uses for businesses owned or part of the character's lives, she has very humorous and sometime the obvious names - The Computer Guy for Zane's friend's computer business; High Country Landscaping for Darby's business; Best Blooms for one of the local nurseries; Reflection Salon for one of the local hair salon and spa just because it is right beside the reflection lake. Perhaps she added this subtle humor to lighten the otherwise heavy plot.

As much as Zane and Darcy complemented each other, I was at first a bit irritated by Darcy. Specially the way she pushes her business to her customers, giving them ideas for more than what they ask for, forcing them to pick her choice. Just like all the contractors that we come across in real life, who always more than often suggest different options than what we originally had in mind. It took a while for me to warm up to her.

One other thing I felt was that there was a lot of chaos in the beginning, then a long lull and then all of a sudden everything comes crashing down in the plot at the end. It felt like Zane and Darcy were facing all at once without having breath of space. 

Certainly a morbid topic, yet Nora weaves a charming tale that shines a positive light despite the darker shades hidden under. Definitely a Nora style book, and a good one to pick up, though it caused a few shivers while I read. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Zane Bigelow's parents - Dr. Graham Bigelow and Eliza Bigelow.

b. Zane's adopted family - Britt (his own sister), his aunt Emily Walker and his grandparents.

c. Carter family who helped Zane and Britt - Dave Carter, his wife Maureen, son Micah and daughter Chloe. 

d. Emily Walker marries Detective Lee Keller who had aided Zane and Britt when they needed help. Lee becomes the Chief of High Country. They have two sons - Gabriel "Gabe" and Brody Michael.

e. Britt is married to Silas Norten, one of the High Country officers, and they have a daughter named Audra,

f. Darcy owns the High Country Landscaping.


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