In under two years, Lyn Liao Butler has published two books that captured my interest. Though I haven’t gotten to read either one yet, I was excited to dive into her newest release, Someone Else’s Life. Her first thriller, this novel takes place during a Hawaiian storm when two strangers are locked inside together. But what’s more dangerous: the storm outside or the person who’s inside?
Special thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with an ARC of this book!
After facing some devastating losses a few years ago and, more recently, going through a scare involving her toddler son, Annie is in need of a reset. She, her husband, and their son move from New York to Hawaii, living close to her father and sister. Annie is still out of sorts and considering therapy when a major storm hits. She’s is home alone until a woman knocks on her door, saying her car is broken down and asking to wait out the storm in Annie’s house. Against her better judgment, Annie lets her in. But as the two get to know each other, Annie may be in more danger than she realized.
Someone Else’s Life is an interesting novel, but a bit of a mixed bag. While the first half of it was a struggle for me, the second half was better, and there were some thoughtful themes woven throughout.
One thing I liked about Someone Else’s Life is its discussion of mental health. From the beginning, it’s clear that Annie has been struggling for some years. After losing her mother, her dog, and her business in the same year, she’s been depressed and has no healthy ways of coping. Her family, with their Taiwanese culture, downplay mental health and discourage therapy, so Annie has instead turned to wine. It takes an unexpected scare before she looks at mental health with a more open mind and considers how she can take better care of herself.
Another interesting theme is how we understand people who do bad things. What if you can see some of yourself in someone who does something nefarious? Is it healthy to humanize and sympathize with them? What does that say about you? One silver lining of this whole scenario may be that Annie gains new perspective on herself through her interactions with the stranger in her house.
Motherhood, family, and the reliability of a partner are also important aspects here. Fears of being a bad mother and not understanding her son plague Annie almost from his birth. While I’m not a mother myself, worries surrounding parenthood feel relatable and heartfelt. In many ways, Annie is struggling, and some of that comes down to how she relates to and communicates with others. This is another valuable lesson she must learn.
While I appreciated the above topics, Someone Else’s Life was tedious and even frustrating in the first half. Much of it is based on Annie’s conversations with the strange woman in her house. The way Annie talks to her is often overly defensive or shocked; the conversations they have feel at once overly familiar and dully unimportant. On top of that, Annie has frequent flashbacks to earlier events in her life, both big and small. These are, ultimately, consequential clues… but the presentation didn’t always work for me. The way information is revealed is a bit clunky. Moreover, the pacing feels uneven, with the first half being a slog and the second half being much for interesting and fast-paced. These two issues make me think this story may have worked better as a novella, or at least could have been strengthened with different structuring in the first half.
Although Someone Else’s Life isn’t perfect, it brings forth interesting themes, and I do plan to read more from Lyn Liao Butler. I have The Tiger Mom’s Tale on my shelf already, and if that goes well, I’ll pick up Red Thread of Fate, too.
Get the Book
You can buy Someone Else’s Life here – it’s available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
|Someone Else’s Life by Lyn Liao Butler|
|Number of Pages||297|
|Format I Read||ebook (NetGalley)|
|Original Publication Date||February 1, 2023|
A new life in paradise should have healed her wounds. But for a woman struggling to hold on to her family and her sanity, one stormy night could change everything.
Blow by blow, Annie Lin’s life crumbles. Her dance studio goes bankrupt. Her mother and beloved dog are gone the same year. Then a terrible accident leaves her young son traumatized.
It’s time for a change.
Palm trees, mai tais, peace and quiet—Annie should be at ease, safe in her new Kauai home with her husband and son. She hopes proximity to her family can provide them all with a sense of belonging and calm. But soon items from her past start turning up—her dog’s collar, a bracelet that disappeared years ago—and she has the unnerving sensation she’s being watched. Reality begins to fracture, and Annie’s panic attacks return. When, during a brewing storm, a woman appears on her doorstep looking for shelter, Annie is relieved to have the company and feels an unexplainable bond with her visitor.
As the night progresses, Annie realizes the woman is no stranger. Their lives are inextricably intertwined—and Annie might just lose everything.
About the Author
Lyn Liao Butler, author of upmarket fiction, thrillers, and romcoms, was born in Taiwan and moved to the States when she was seven. Before becoming an author, she was a professional ballet and modern dancer, and is still a personal trainer, fitness instructor, and yoga instructor. She is an avid animal lover and fosters dogs as well as volunteers with rescues.
When she is not torturing clients or talking to imaginary characters, Lyn enjoys spending time with her FDNY husband, their son (the happiest little boy in the world), their three stubborn dachshunds (Lokie, Mochi, Cash, and Pinot in heaven), sewing for her Etsy shop, and trying crazy yoga poses on a stand-up paddleboard. So far, she has not fallen into the water yet.
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