Sunday, November 22, 2020

337 by M. Jonathan Lee

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 337 pages
Published: November 2020

Hideway Fall publishers contacted me a few months ago with an email teaser about M. Jonathan Lee's intriguing sixth new novel, 337. I get a lot of these requests through my blog contact form. After learning a bit about this book, I allowed the publisher to send me a ARC for review. And I am glad I did. 337 pulls the reader in before even opening the book. I noticed the title was displayed on the cover in a font that mimicked the author's last name (if you flipped it over). The book's page count is 337. Beyond those two elements, I'm not sure how the title relates to the story. The book is about and narrated by a young man, Sam, whose mother (Sandra) disappeared when he was just 12 years old a day after the family's annual family picnic. Her disappearance leaves Sam and his 7-year old brother with their neglectful and abusive father, Ray. The book is a double-ended and upside down, for reasons I am still trying to discern. I started reading from the side of the blue cover. After learning about the disappearance of Sandra, the book fast-forwards 25 years and Ray, Sam's father, calls and asks him to go check on Sam's dying grandmother. Then, the book instructs the reader to flip and turn the book to page 16 and continue reading normally.  

From the outset, it seems as though the story is about a man trying to come to terms with the unresolved disappearance of his mother, and it is about that to a certain degree. However, the bigger story is about Sam's reconciliation and reconnecting with his family and, in a sense, himself. The overall tone of the books is somber. The story, told from Sam's point-of-view, is very descriptive. Honestly, there's very little action, which makes the short chapters seem a little longer than they are. However, the writing style and Sandra's disappearance create enough intrigue to keep the reader hooked. 

There's a little plot twist at the end that I can't say I saw coming, but it didn't really surprise me either. I am wondering if it was even necessary. The mystery portion of the novel left me with more questions than anything. I think this novel is about personal growth and overcoming tragic circumstances and the ending just felt a little expendable to me. Having said all of that, Lee is definitely a gifted writer. The PR packet I received with this book makes me want to read some of his others. 

Recommendation: This is not an action-packed mystery. It is a beautifully written story about grief and healing. I devoured this book in a short weekend, and I would definitely recommend it with the caveat that one shouldn't put too much stock in the synopsis for guiding you through the story. In fact, I'd say, just skip the author-provided synopsis and dive right in. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Please note: The double-ended upside-down opening for this book is available in books ordered in hard copy from UK booksellers only.

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Book Tour Sponsored by:
Hideaway Fall publishers


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