Monday, October 14, 2013

Review for Pulling Me Under by Rebecca Berto

Title: Pulling Me Under
Author: Rebecca Berto
Series: Pulling Me Under #1
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Suspense
Age Group: Adult
Cover Designed by: Berto Designs

Paul was Katie’s rock for thirteen years, but then she watched him die.

By day, she is left with her daughter Ella’s questions about where Daddy went, and at night she's consumed with nightmares of the moment he died. It isn’t long before Katie’s mother hints that her volatile lifestyle and developing drinking habits are no way to raise a little girl.

Through it all, her and Paul’s best friend, Liam is there. Grieving the death of both husband and friend, the time they spend together seems more intimate these days, and Katie soon stumbles into taboo territory: Liam might be in love with her.

Torn between Liam’s feelings and losing Ella, one night Katie runs.

Air. Space. Thinking time. That's what she thinks she's getting when she stumbles upon that party. In the morning, in a strange bed, she can’t remember the night before.

Pulling Me Under is raw in its brutality of love and pain, with slow-building suspense to a heart-stopping conclusion.

Purchase Pulling Me Under:
Amazon US | Amazon International | Barnes & Noble 

Download the prequel novella, Precise, for FREE!

   Ella’s school-dress buttons and collar change color. They’re business-shirt blue and only three buttons are done up because Paul was lifeless, gone, by the time I got to him but Paul’s not really here and maybe Ella is. Maybe I’m not here, either.
   I dig my nails into the laminate until I want to scream from the pressure of my bending nails. Okay, so I’m still here.
   “What did I do?” Ella’s voice breaks, and it sounds as if she chokes on her last word.
   Ella deserves a mother who will pull her into her chest at times like this and cry about how sad they both are. I haven’t cried since before Paul’s death.
   At twenty-nine, I shouldn’t be waking up every day to this. I’d once thought widows only existed when people were old. Sure, I still have the brown hair with some type of wave to it, but I’m a shell with rotting insides.
   Paul’s bloody body, dotted with partially digested chunks of his breakfast is suddenly in front of me. Then his dead body multiplies, replicating behind me, to my left, right. He is a cage. I am the prisoner. His blood stains the floor red, causing my breath to stagger. My head spins seeing the sickening chunks and lifeless body of the man I would have given my life for.
   My daughter’s sobs fade, as if I’m being sucked away into a tunnel. The gray walls churn as if I’m in a kaleidoscope. Fire truck red and kryptonite green color blurs together to a spot in the distance. The end of the house is gone, replaced with a tunnel sucking me out of the kitchen. The choking, sobbing sound across the counter fades further.
   Suddenly, the kitchen fades to an image of my closet. Last night, I found Ella there, her fingers skimming along the circle she made of Paul’s ties. For minutes, I stood behind her in the doorway of my closet. It had been the first time in my master bedroom in months.
   Ella bopped on her knees, her feet tucked away under her bum. She’d laid out all of her favorite colors. One with Disney’s Tasmanian Devil printed on it, another in Cadbury purple. Ten or more lay around the circle. Her favorite tie had a pink and blue swirl twisting down its length, right in front of her knees.
   She stroked each tie once, her voice a steady hum. When she brushed the swirly tie, her hum reached a staccato and stopped. She picked it up in the same manner as she would her favorite doll and stroked it against her chest.
   Outside, the Melbourne rain had climaxed from gentle taps on the windows to angry thumps, making me jump.
   “Oh, Daddy,” Ella mumbled. “Can I really have it?”
   A flash of me from months ago rushed to her side, knowing to fold her legs and prop her in my lap as we sat together. That version of me plucked all her fingers, and Ella chuckled and snorted simultaneously.
   Instead? I said, “No. Ella. Out.”
   Ella spun around at the same time as a clap of lighting shook the carpet under our feet. She squealed and clamped her arms by her side, her back ramrod straight. “I want the swirly one. M—my doll needs it.”
   I held myself up on the doorjamb of the closet, my arm against the wall easily blocking out the bed and the far side of the room where no one had scrubbed out the stain. “No more. You’re not allowed in here. No one is.” My lip shook almost too much to choke out words. “How could you . . . do this? You know how naughty . . . it is to . . . to come here.”
   Even I couldn’t go in the master bedroom. Haven’t since what happened until now.
   The crumpled sheets can’t be moved. I leave the stains. Everything must remain the same. I don’t straighten my hair anymore, or sleep with a pile of pillows, or wear my comfortable jeans. No one can be in here so nothing will change.
   What if Ella found the box under the bed? If she went through it?
   Not yet. Maybe not ever. I promised myself that I wouldn’t look under the bed. There’s too much finality in looking through that box.
   Shaking my mind back to present-time I think, I know too much.
   I hate.
   I hate Paul for leaving me to fend against Mom when he knows I can’t do it by myself.
   I hate him for being selfish and thinking that I can live without him.
   Most of all, I hate me for hating him, since it’s my fault he isn’t here now.
   Ella? She wants to know. Something. Will he come back? Does he love her?
   My mom used to say things like, “It’s your fault, Katie. You hear me, Katie? You ruined my tummy, Katie.” Then she would come close enough to smell the fear coating my skin. Always, I’d gasp and try to run away. She’d grab me and yank me back by my flimsy wrist. Her voice was low and steady. Low so I wouldn’t get lost in her hysteria; steady so my mind would store this information forever.
   “You killed your brothers and sisters. They didn’t make it out of my belly because you jinxed me. You know that, right?”
   Now, in this kitchen, Ella smells a lot like that fear.

Rebecca Berto is an Amazon bestselling author. She is also a freelance editor.

She writes stories that are full of heart. She gets a thrill when her readers are emotional reading her stories, and gets even more of a kick when they tell her so. She’s strangely imaginative, spends too much time on her computer, and is certifiably crazy when she works on her fiction.

Rebecca Berto lives in Melbourne, Australia with her boyfriend and their doggy.

My Review

What would you do if one day you came home to find your husband's lifeless body on your bedroom floor?

Four months after Paul's death, Katie finds solace in sleeping pills and Johnny Walker.  Soon she is spiraling out of control and losing her grip on reality. She often dreams of the day she found Paul surrounded by his own blood and vomit, but is unaware is she is even awake or sleeping. She even goes as far as to blame herself for killing him. That first week after his death hasn't ended for her, and she feels a constant disconnect. Katie avoids anything that triggers the painful reminder of that day. She refuses to enter the master bedroom where she found Paul, only allowing herself to sleep in the spare bedroom. She has pushed away everyone in her life: her friends, family, and even her six-year-old daughter, Ella. She knows she hasn't been the best mom, but she refuses to let her parents take Ella away from her and puts on a mask that everything is fine.

When Katie's mother, Rochelle, confronts her at a birthday party, Katie finds herself running away from her problems again and ends up at a party for her childhood friend's older brother, Brent. While there, she blacks out and wakes up the next morning in an unfamiliar bed, with her dress torn and an painful ache between her legs, but she is unable to piece together the events of what had happened the night before to lead up to this.

Liam, Brent's brother and Katie's best friend, tries to help Katie confront her issues, but pushes her away even further when he expresses his true feelings for her. Liam refuses to let Katie run off again, and when he explains to her how he has coped with the loss of Paul, she realizes she is not the only one suffering and that her and Liam are not so different after all. Sometimes it is easier to admit you have a problem and seek help when someone close to you is dealing with the same issues. 

Katie finally begins to remember bits and pieces of what happened the night of the party, but will she be able to deal with the repercussions of what had happened and seek help or will she continue to spiral further, drowning into the issues that have been plaguing her and continue to push everyone away?

I loved the synopsis for Pulling Me Under, and the storyline drew me in immediately. From the very beginning you could see that Katie has an inner battle with the way she's coping with her husband's death. Rebecca Berto did a great job of depicting how Katie's thought process jumped around and her struggle dealing with every day things in her life, including being a mom. At times I seriously just wanted to slap Katie for how she was behaving and scream at her to put her daughter first, but at the same time I felt for her and thought to myself, if I had been in the same situation I might have turned to the same outlets to deal with the pain as well.

I didn't see the end coming at all. Throughout the book I was trying to guess who was responsible for what happened to Katie at the party. Every time Katie had any recollection of that night, I immediately went with her gut instinct of who might have been, but I was so far off. I like that it kept things suspenseful, even right up to the very end.

There were a few things I didn't like about the book. There were a lot of parts that I felt were over-stretched and dragged on, and I found myself skimming over a few pages. I didn't really feel a connection between Katie and Liam, even after they grew closer. I wanted to so badly, and I knew he was the perfect one for her to lean on and help carry the burden, since they were both struggling, but for me, the feelings between them just weren't there. My biggest bugaboo was that the entire book was written in the first person from Katies's POV. . .EXCEPT part 2. Part 2 was written in the third person, and I just felt like it didn't flow with the rest of the book. I think it might have been better to to go back and forth between Katie and Brent's POV in the first person (but that's just my opinion).

Overall, I did enjoy the book. It was emotional and drew on several heart-wrenching issues that I think a lot of readers can relate to. Kudos to Ms. Berto!

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