A Simple Favor

by Darcey Bell
Harper, March 2017, $25.99

When Stephanie’s best friend, Emily, goes missing, leaving behind a son and a husband, Stephanie goes out of her way to comfort the family, because that’s what good friends do, right? But in this story by first-time novelist Darcey Bell, nothing is really as it seems.

Everyone has secrets and part of the attraction is watching those secrets be revealed as the book edges toward its dramatic conclusion. The first half of the story is told by Stephanie, a stay-at-home “mommy blogger,” whom we are introduced to through her site. While she at first seems to be beside herself with grief, she still manages to get in a dig or two at Emily, which sets the tone for the whole story. Things may look perfect on the outside, but they are rotten at the core.

The blog postings alternate with Stephanie’s own first-person narrative, which gives the reader a look at what’s really going on in her life: things she admits that she would never share with anyone else, including her blog readers. It isn’t until the second half of the book when Emily surfaces and starts sharing her own secrets that you realize just how terrifying both of these moms are—which makes it really intense when each woman decides that they want the same thing.

Bell’s use of the “mommy blog” as a way to showcase how things look on the surface versus how they are in real life is brilliant, and works especially well when Stephanie wants to bait Emily, who everyone else believes is still missing. This starts a cat-and-mouse game that results in lies, betrayal, obsession, revenge and murder—actions that you’d hardly expect from two suburban mothers—and it makes for “mommy” reading that is so much better than any blog.

Vanessa Orr
Teri Duerr
March 2017