Out Now – Book review for Netgalley – Before She Was Helen by Caroline B.Cooney

Dear Reader,

In the wonderful magical world of books there are books that surprise you, shock you, make you shake your hand or bang your fist. There are some books that make you feel sorry for the characters or mad at them. And there are books that make you realise that even worst actions can be if not justified, explained and understood…


Her life didn’t turn out the way she expected ― so she made herself a new one

When Clemmie goes next door to check on her difficult and unlikeable neighbor Dom, he isn’t there. But something else is. Something stunning, beautiful and inexplicable. Clemmie photographs the wondrous object on her cell phone and makes the irrevocable error of forwarding it. As the picture swirls over the internet, Clemmie tries desperately to keep a grip on her own personal network of secrets. Can fifty years of careful hiding under names not her own be ruined by one careless picture?

And although what Clemmie finds is a work of art, what the police find is a body. . . in a place where Clemmie wasn’t supposed to be, and where she left her fingerprints. Suddenly, the bland, quiet life Clemmie has built for herself in her sleepy South Carolina retirement community comes crashing down as her dark past surges into the present. 


‘Her life didn’t turned out the way she expected’…. Well, that is the easiest cop out if there ever was one.

Clemmie’s life was turned upside down. She had noone to rely on and noone to protect her. She lived in the times when society (men) looked at women as objects. And if anything went wrong with women they were the ones to blame.

Clemmie stepped into the new identity not because she wanted to but because she saw it as the only way to escape, to survive, to protect herself…

However, the ease with which Clemmie stepped into the new identity is another thing altogether… Througout her life Clemmie learnt to manage her double-identity. She became a master of hiding… And she lead a very lonely life..

At the sundown of her life Clemmie thought to stop running and hiding and live out her years in the quiet of the retirement village. But people are people. And even living in the retirement village, playing cards and driving golf buggies people are capable of quite a few things…

The irony of Clemmie’s life can be summed up as following: she was young in the times when women were objects but it was easy to hide. And she found herself in the times when women got power and protection but when it became so much more difficult to hide and not to leave trace… And this was her undoing.

Unfortunately, I can’t go into details of the story without spoiling it for the readers. All I can say, Before She Was Helen brought back the truths that secrets are poison. They can fester and explode at very inopportune times.

Will there be a happy ending? Well, of sorts. The story is suspenseful and twisted enough to keep the reader entertained till the very end. The characters are multi-layered. One would never expect turns and mutations of some of the characters. But they all added to the suspense and entertainment.

I gave this book 5 stars for driving home the universal truths, for showing that humans are so weak and wicked and at the same time so strong and eager to survive that nothing seems beyond reach… nothing…

Don’t judge. Read.

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