Unbecoming: A Novel - Rebecca Scherm






Rebecca Scherm, 2015


In a small repair shop in Paris, Julie – originally from California – mends antiques and resets gems in jewelry. She’s paid off the books and is pretty sure that her boss is using her to steal from her clients. But none of that matters. Because Julie is really Grace, from small-town Tennessee, and she’s on the run. She stole a two million dollar painting from a historical house in her hometown, which set off a chain of events that ended with her husband and her lover being arrested as she left the country with the painting. But now the two men have been paroled, and she’s sure that, despite hiding from her past ever since the theft, that they’re going to find her and make her pay for what she did.



I’m having a hard time deciding how I feel about this book. On one hand, it had an interesting plot and an interesting lead character. On the other hand, the plot seemed to drag at times (to the point where this book took me much longer to read than it should have) and the lead character was really unlikable. In the end, I’ve decided that I liked it, but that it could have really been a lot better.


The plot was probably the best part of this book – we know from the beginning that Grace has done something really bad and is on the run in Paris. We are then taken back to her life as a teenager in Garland to fill in the blanks. Watching the events unfold, knowing the eventual outcome, was actually a lot of fun. There were times when the plot dragged a bit – mostly (for me) when the book was focusing on Grace and Riley’s relationship. I get that we needed to see how dysfunctional the situation was in order to understand how she could walk away from it, but I think I just really hated reading about Riley.


Which is where the biggest problem (again, for me) came in: I hated both Alls and Riley (aka, the lover and the husband). I didn’t like either of them. I thought Riley was a lame pushover with no dimension whatsoever, and therefore found it hard to understand how she could have fallen in love with him in the first place. But at the same time, Alls was just so bland. Aside from being attractive and from her just wanting to be with someone other than Riley, I couldn’t figure out what drew Grace to him at all. Because of this (without giving anything away) I was not a fan of the ending. I just didn’t understand why Grace would do what she did, unless she herself was just a horrible person… But that’s the other thing. Grace really was kind of a horrible person. Forget trying to figure out what she saw in Riley or Alls – what did they see in her?


The one saving grace (no pun intended) to the characters is that, despite being a horrible person (or maybe because of it?), Grace was interesting. It was easy to follow her story because she was a surprisingly complex character. I kind of enjoyed reading about how she manipulated someone or screwed someone over, and I also liked reading about her getting her dues for it. The book stayed interesting, even with its flaws.


Overall, I think this could have been a better book. It’s obvious that its a debut novel, but I think that the author has a lot of potential. She’s decent at writing main characters, although her side characters need a little more depth in order to be interesting. And she has an ability to make a book very readable, even when it isn’t perfect. It’s a decent low-key heist thriller, if you’re looking for something like that, but if you’re someone who needs to find something likable in your main characters, you might have issues with this one.