"Heartbreak could be lived with if it weren't accompanied by regret."The Raising by Laura Kasischke tells the haunting story of what happens after beautiful blond sorority sister Nicole is killed in a car accident that leaves her boyfriend, Craig, who was driving, unhurt but also without a memory of the events surrounding the accident. Shelly witnessed the accident and despite the official story that Nicole's body was burned beyond recognition in the crash, she knows that when she arrived moments after the crash, there was no fire, no blood, and Nicole was still very much alive. A year later, Craig is back on campus amid suspicions and gossip, but some say he's not the only one who returned. Rumour has it a dark-haired ghost of Nicole is lurking, and when Craig's room-mate Perry confronts Mira, a university professor who studies folklore of death, she decides to investigate further.
Although this is the first novel I've read by Kasischke, I was initially intrigued by it when I realized the film The Life Before Her Eyes was based on a previous book of hers. The emotional complexity seen in the movie is also found in Kasischke's writing, and The Raising is a creepy, well-written literary thriller. The novel alternates between Craig, Perry, Mira and Shelly as third-person narrators and each character is unique and developed. Kasischke is just as easily able to inhabit the mind of a nineteen year old sex-obsessed college boy as she is an aging lesbian or a mother with a demanding career who is trying not to let her relationship with her children and husband suffer too badly. She is truly a chameleon.
The story itself is both rich and complex, and although it starts fairly slowly and could perhaps have been trimmed down slightly, it feels completely haunting and real. Even though I called The Raising a literary thriller, the emphasis lies on the literary portion as the mystery moved quite slow at times so that even though I did really want to know how things turned out, I felt it was taking too long to get there. That said, once I made it about a quarter into the book I was unable to put it down. The ending itself was the least satisfying part of the novel for me, although it felt realistic it didn't have the strength of the rest of the novel. The other aspect of the book I found frustrating was Shelly at times, she seemed like a smart character but then made a series of terrible decisions that I never truly found believable.
Kasischke's writing is what truly captivated me in The Raising, and I was not surprised to learn she was also a poet. When I finished the novel I purchased her previous book, A Perfect World, and I suspect it will not be the last book I read by her. That's because even if the book veered slightly off-course at times, sometimes suffering from a touch of wordiness or slow pacing, I was always impressed by Kasischke's clear skill as a writer. She creates three-dimensional situations on the page for the reader, bringing them to life, so that it is easy to image the look on a character's face or the students unease when visiting the morgue in Mira's class. Ultimately, The Raising is a powerfully written mystery and Kasischke's vivid imagery is only one of the many reasons you won't be able to put it down.
Release Date: March 15th, 2011
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This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.