It has been ten years since Ruby left her hometown behind. Since then she’s built a life away from her recovering alcoholic mother and her first love, Murphy. But when Danny, one of her estranged friends from childhood, commits suicide, guilt draws Ruby back into the tumultuous world she escaped all those years ago.
She’s dreading the funeral – and with good reason. Danny has left a series of envelopes addressed to his former friends. Inside each envelope is a secret about every person in the group. Ruby’s secret is so explosive, she will fight tooth-and-nail to keep it hidden from those she once loved so deeply, even if that means risking everything..
From Netgalley in exchange for a review.
This is a story about a group of friends who call themselves “The Crew”: Ruby, Ally, Murphy, Emmett, Danny. The story starts with Danny’s suicide, which proves to be the catalyst to call Ruby back home after 10 years away. Ruby is the only one who has spent time away, living in places like London and New York, basically cutting all of her friends out of her life. After his funeral, it comes to light that Danny has left individual letters for the crew, exposing a secret specific to each person.
Told in a series of “then and now” chapters, this gives an indication of where Ruby (in particular) has got to be where she is now, including a father who disappears for months on end, leaving Ruby to deal with an alcoholic bi-polar mother as best as she can. Her best friend is Murphy, who, without her knowing about it, has been in love with her for years. In blind delusion, Ruby keeps setting Murphy up with other girls (especially Taylor), without realising it’s to avoid confronting the fact that she is in love with him too.
The story effectively demonstrates how friendships – and enemies – can ebb and flow, and turn on a dime. There are the usual angsts where people fall in and out of love, feel betrayed, betray people in turn, and make decisions that affect the rest of their lives. Following Danny’s funeral, it takes a while for people to realise that whilst Danny was there for all of them in some way or other (ending up being the one person they turned to, allowing him to know their secrets), they weren’t there for him in return in the run up to his suicide. In turn it seems they have all lied to each other over things, either by omitting to tell the truth or outright lying.
As each person’s secret gets released it has a larger effect on both the individual and the group, until it is the turn of Ruby and Murphy to expose their secrets, which go much of the way to explaining why both are behaving as they do.
Strong debut novel, with a decent premise deftly executed. Having Danny “top and tail” the story nicely frames the story.