Goodreads summary (review below) of The Weekend Retreat by Tara Laskowski:
Three couples. Three days. A family getaway to die for.
Every year, the illustrious Van Ness siblings—heirs to a copper fortune—gather at their luxury winery estate for a joint birthday celebration. It’s a tradition they’ve followed nearly all their lives, and now they are back with their significant others for a much-needed weekend of rest and relaxation away from the public spotlight.
With lavish comforts, gorgeous scenery, and indulgent drinking, the trip should be the perfect escape. But it soon becomes clear that even a remote, idyllic getaway can’t keep out the problems simmering in each of their lives. The three couples are pushed to the edge as old tensions are reignited. Will their secrets destroy them, or will they destroy each other first? And who’s been watching them from beyond the vineyard gates?
Reason #1 Characters
If you don’t like well-executed, hatable characters, move along. The Weekend Retreat is chock full of hatable characters that Tara Laskowski gives sharp edges, writing them with evil intent. There isn’t a likable character in the bunch. They are all hiding secrets and harboring disdain for each other. Some aren’t even who they say they are, not that anyone knows. Some characters put on a better act of feigning love, kindness, and care for their siblings/in-laws. And some just say all the quiet parts out loud without a fuck buck to give.
Moreover, each character has their “role” in the Van Ness family. Elle, the people pleaser, is trying to make everything just right… or is she? Harper says all the things out loud. That isn’t even true. She keeps some deep-seated thoughts to herself. Just imagine, if she says the quiet parts aloud, what obscene thoughts are hidden in the back of her mind?
I like when he’s…vulnerable. How easy it would be to pick up one of the weights and slam it down on his neck, crush his windpipe… My murderous thoughts have definitely been on an uptick.
Additionally, there is the dead matriarch of the family. She hangs over everyone’s head like a stormy cloud. These are just two of a plethora of characters with hidden agendas, secrets, and feelings towards others.
All the characters are developed dynamically individually and in their interactions with everyone else. It is anyone’s guest who is going to act on their vengeful thoughts. Then there are surprise side characters that throw all the wrenches into all the plans.
Reason #2- Plot
Holy twists and turns, Batman! Tara Laskowski doesn’t just write in reveals and secrets. The reveals have their hidden reveals, and everyone’s secrets have secrets. Tara Laskowski lures you into believing all the secrets and reveals have happened. Instead, The Weekend Retreat isn’t done with you or the characters yet. Not by a long shot.
The Weekend Retreat is one of those unique, rare books. It balances between being character and plot-driven. As I mentioned, secrets have secrets, identities are buried, and everyone is putting on a show (except, maybe, Harper). Furthermore, these secrets and identities aren’t just revealed. There are clues sprinkled throughout the story to keep you guessing. The Weekend Retreat’s faked dynamics add to the tension and suspense. Tara Laskowski builds the tension throughout The Weekend Retreat. Through clues and slow reveals, The Weekend Retreat is nail-biting.
Reason #3 Structure
Without the structure, The Weekend Retreat could become convoluted. Tara Laskowski devises a framework for The Weekend Retreat that dominos into everything else. The Weekend Retreat has a large cast of characters. The plot wouldn’t work without multiple points of view. In addition, there are interspersed chapters from “The Party Guest,” a gossip blog, and news reports. Not to mention the fact that Tara Laskowski had to decide which characters have their own chapters carefully, and she did so brilliantly.
These interspersed chapters are essential to the plot in creating suspense and dropping clues. “The Party Guest” consistently demonstrates their plans, dropping hints about their motivation without giving it away.
I’m invisible to them. I’m a shadow in the darkness, a flicker of movement in the corner of their eye. Right there, but not important enough to really look at, to notice. This weekend, though, that’s just fine by me. Because being invisible can also have its benefits
However, their motives and identity are very slowly revealed. These chapters show shadows of the background past, pieces of the present, and the ending result of the weekend.
Tara Laskowski writes and structures The Weekend Retreat in a way that keeps it from becoming confusing or coming undone. With the complexity of the plot and characters, this could quickly happen. However, it never does. The Weekend Retreat stays clear and concise. Lastly, the structure allows for a fast-paced thriller.
Thank you to Graydon House and HarperCollins Audio for an advance copy of The Weekend Retreat by Tara Laskowski, which will be released on December 26th, and for inviting me on this book tour.
Reason #4 Writing
Add everything above, add it together, and you have some incredible writing. Harper is one of the brightest spots. She is dark and brutally honest, with a sharp, dark sense of humor in dialogue and her inner narrative.
This weekend has hardly begun and already I’m nauseated. When can we start stabbing each other in the backs and rewarding ourselves with long naps?
However, while Harper might be the brightest spot, the writing throughout The Weekend Retreat is stellar. Tara Laskowski’s writing uses every word and every vital plot point. On another note, she keeps the pace moving despite the necessary building of each character. It is quick, witty, and suspenseful. Nothing is over-the-top or necessitates buy-in.
Think about everything I’ve expressed that went into The Weekend Retreat. Without an outstanding audiobook, in its production, there is no way it would work. You must have every point of view (characters AND the interspersed “Party Guest,” news, and gossip blog) labeled and on point. HarperCollins Audio did a spectacular job producing The Weekend Retreat.
Lastly, the narrators portrayed every character perfectly. They conveyed a multitude of personalities and emotions without fail. Each narrator built up the suspense and brought the story off the page.
The group of narrators for The Weekend Retreat included two of my favorite narrators: Karissa Vacker and Lisa Flanagan. In addition, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Emily Ellet and Gail Shalan.
About The Author
TARA LASKOWSKI is the author of The Mother Next Door and One Night Gone, which won an Agatha Award, Macavity Award, and Anthony Award, and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, Left Coast Crime Award, Strand Critics’ Award, and Library of Virginia Literary Award. She is also the author of two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, has published stories in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Mid-American Review, among others, and is the former editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. Tara earned a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University and currently lives in Virginia. Find her on Facebook and Instagram, @TaraLWrites.
Author website: https://taralaskowski.com/
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