True Colors by Kristin Hannah (2009. Griffin. ISBN 9780312606121)

Disappointing, for sure. Now, to be fair, my wife, an avid reader and a woman who actually belongs to a book club (this author does not) read this novel and thoroughly enjoyed it. I will be candid: I did not. Before you Hannah lovers out there get all bent out of shape and start throwing cyber-grown rotten tomatoes at me, let me explain something: I am a Hannah fan too!

If you type in “Hannah” in the search bar of this blog (upper right hand), you’ll find three reviews of Kristin’s work: Nightengale (5 stars and smashing); Winter Garden (4 1/2 stars and a great read); and The Great Alone, Hannah’s most recent (4 stars). So, I am not on some crusade to hack apart another writer’s efforts. I have enjoyed my fellow ex-lawyer’s efforts as listed and will do so, more than likely, in the future as well. So what, you ask, is wrong with True Colors?

First, I was completely disinterested in the personal journal entries of Noah, the troubled love-child of Vivi Ann, one of the three sisters in the story, and Dallas, a Native American bad boy with a good heart. After reading the first few entires written in Noah’s hand, I found myself skipping the rest. That’s never a good sign; skipping portions of the text a writer worked so hard to create. Turns out, by skipping one of the last pieces written by the kid in his diary, I missed the final reveal in the story. I found myself confused at the end of the tale until I went back and read the entry. Not that I was surprised: I told my wife, when Dallas went to prison for a murder he likely didn’t commit, there’d be (spoiler alert) a DNA aspect to the plot that eventually releases him from wrongful bondage. That was in the first third of this soap opera and so, even though I missed that key plot point, I wasn’t all that surprised to find it in Noah’s writings.

The ending, to me, was extremely contrived, as if the author didn’t know how to reconcile the intra-familial conflicts raging in the Grey family between the three sisters, their father, their lovers, and Noah. There’s also a very trite and superficial reckoning between Dallas and the goody-two-shoes of the town whose eyewitness testimony put Dallas in prison for a murder he did not commit.

Unlike Hannah’s later works (the three previously reviewed books all follow True Colors, the author seems to be content to let dialogue drive the story; forsaking the literary fiction traits of character and setting and complexity that make her other books so darn good. I felt like I was, at times, reading “Grisham light” with a feminine touch. That’s not pejorative: This is, when all is said and done, chick-lit and if you’re into that genre, probably a fine read. That’s not me and that’s not what I expected from an author who gifted the world The Nightengale, one of my favorite reads in the last ten years.

3 stars: Readable but not my cup of tea.

Peace.

Mark

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