Finding Out is the debut novel from Sheryn MacMunn. The story revolves around the lives of two heroines. The main character, Sheila Davenport, is New York career woman who lacks confidence and has just been dumped on the street outside her upscale co-op by her philandering, long-term boyfriend, Joe.
Ruth Grey is her elderly neighbor across the hall whose kindness and life story helps Sheila learn valuable lessons about herself, the ways of the world and what can bring her true happiness.
The writing is impressive. The book opens with a break-up scene, filled with fabulous dialogue and characterization. MacMunn makes the reader feel Sheila's trauma as she learns one devastating secret after another and yet still has to work the next morning in an office full of harrowing politics.
Days later, when Sheila encounters Ruth in the elevator, a friendship is kindled and the reader starts to see how Sheila's problems, which seem insurmountable to her, pale in significance to what Ruth has experienced. This journey is masterfully accomplished through use of alternating points of view between modern day Sheila and the teenaged Ruth trapped with her family in Nazi Germany.
The story is engaging. The dialogue is natural and easy to follow. The plot is solid, multilevel and reflects the many facets and meanings of the title and overall theme of finding out. Even the cover art, which seems incongruous at first glance, has special significance to the story. This book is exceptionally well put together, very easy to read and hard to put down.
However, there were a few very minor foibles. For example, sometimes telling rather than showing slowed the pace. Likewise, periodic head-hopping or word repetition (e.g. Cosmopolitan the drink used in short succession with Cosmopolitan the magazine) broke the illusion. It also seemed a stretch that a 1930s twelve year old would know about adrenaline or that bedsheets in Westchester would only be 600 rather than 1000 percale/thread count. But these, again, are very minor points.
Overall this is a first rate story that well-deserves all of the awards and accolades it has received. We look forward to more work from this author.
5 out of 5 stars