Posted in Book Review

The Retreat by Sherri Smith

Dates Read: October 11, 2021 – November 6, 2021
Date Published: August 13, 2019
Source: ebook via Forge and Sherri Smith in exchange for an honest review

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Four women.
Four secrets.
A weekend that will change them forever…if they survive.

Katie Manning was a beloved child star until her mid-teens when her manager attacked and permanently scarred her face, effectively ending her career and sending her on a path of all-too-familiar post-Hollywood self-destruction.

Now twenty-seven, Katie wants a better answer to those clickbait “Where Are They Now?” articles that float around online. An answer she hopes to find when her brother’s too-good-to-be-true fiancé invites her to a wellness retreat upstate. Together with Katie’s two best friends–one struggling with crippling debt and family obligations, one running away from a failed job and relationship–Katie will try to find the inner peace promised at the tranquil retreat. But finding oneself just might drudge up more memories than Katie is prepared to deal with.

Each woman has come to the retreat for different reasons. Each has her secrets to hide. And at the end of this weekend, only one will be left standing.

****First off, I feel like it’s worth mentioning right out of the gate some trigger warnings.****
-Molestation of a teenager including later recounting of the molestation
-Drug use and addiction including alcoholism
-Childhood cancer

I will always love a good suspenseful who’dun’it type story. ALWAYS. Even when it takes me almost a month to read it and I’m a little bored most of the way through. We’ll just add it to the list of my toxic reading traits. I WAS interested in this book. I was. Just not the way I wish I had been. I found that I was incredibly annoyed and bored in the beginning with all the talk of “Shelby Spade” and all the high school girl banter back and forth between Katie, Ariel, and Carmen. Even when we got further into the book, we kept getting snippets of Shelby Spade episodes and how they were similar to the real situations Katie was in. I powered through them and I guess they sort of served to set the stage of Katie’s childhood, but I feel like in the grand scheme of the book, they held no weight. They were pointless.

Anywho, so we are following four girls on a wellness retreat. Who do we have?
Katie: our main character. Former child star whose career went down the crapshoot following an accident.
Ellie: Katie’s soon-to-be sister-in-law. She is engaged to Katie’s brother, Nate, and was the one who suggested they visit the retreat together to hopefully bond and help Katie with her alcoholism.
Ariel: One of Katie’s college friends who Katie invited on the retreat
Carmen: Another of Katie’s college friends who was also invited by Katie to the retreat

The book jumps back and forth from each girl’s perspective and is also split up into each day of the retreat. (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday)
The first third of the book kind of just annoyed me. It was all just Katie being a brat, Ariel and Carmen being annoying, and of course, the author setting the stage and providing little details and snippets that would prove to be a bit important later on. The first third was why it took me so long to get through this book. I struggled to sit and read this ridiculous high school mean girl drama unfolding on the way to the retreat and on their first night there. We have to read about Ariel sulking because she didn’t get to room with Katie and Katie not caring about anything other than keeping her phone instead of putting it in the basket with everyone else’s during their stay. But again, I get it, the stage was being set. And I don’t think we were ever meant to really like any of these characters. Which… I didn’t.

The second third started to get good… until it fell flat. The third… third… was the most exciting. It was like one of those movies that you sit through and are just “bleh” about until it gets to the last 20 minutes and then everything happens so quickly and you feel like your head is gonna fall off.

So the second third… I was excited. YAY! MURDER! Right off the bat! First page! Now we can start being detectives and try to figure out who it was! But, not even a few pages later, I knew… I knew exactly who did it because it was the only logical explanation. I was just a little disappointed with how easy it was. And THEN I was disappointed that people weren’t dropping like flies after the initial killing. But that’s not the way the story was meant to go, and I get that.

There was a moment in the beginning of the last third of the book where a knife was mentioned and it took me a second to realize they were talking about the murder weapon that killed the first victim. We had spent so long in the middle of the book learning about Katie’s history that I had completely forgotten someone even died. We went from a bloody knife being found to being thrown headfirst into the sea of Katie’s childhood and allllllll of her history. This alone is the reason I took half a star away from the review. I pretty much read the last half of this book without stopping and still managed to be so deterred with other elements of Katie’s convoluted story that I forgot what I was originally here for. MURDER.

I was promised FOUR secrets and I honestly feel like only one of them was a gasp moment when it was revealed. The others weren’t that grand to me. Though, they do play a direct role in the downfall of the characters. So they’re not without purpose.

I feel like I’m being primarily negative though and as you’ve probably noticed, I gave this book 3.5 cats (stars). I did enjoy the story. It was vindictive and manipulative with completely unlikable characters who didn’t make you feel bad for sitting there and cheering on the killer. I LOVE a book where I can be detached from every single character. Not a single main character in this book had any redeeming qualities. We had all of the seven deadly sins and I LOVED that. Pride, greed, wrath, gluttony, envy, lust, sloth… everyone was accounted for. At some point in the book, every one of those sins reared their ugly heads and it was completely entertaining.

Honestly, if some production company were to pick this one up, it would be a good b-list slasher movie. I would watch it.

Overall I did enjoy it. Do I think I’ll remember it later down the road without looking at my notes or someone detailing what the story was about? No. Which is another reason I rated the way I did. But I did definitely enjoy the last half of the book in the moment.

✌💛