Review

Let Her Be

Lisa Unger

In a story that takes the reader on an emotional exploration of a broken man, Lisa Unger offers a roadmap that is anything but linear. A great short story that delivers an impactful punch but remains placid throughout. Perfect for a warm and cozy getaway from the busyness life offers up!

Will is an author who’s looking for his first book deal, though this seems to be the least of his worries. His life has been without a clear purpose since his suicide attempt and he still marvels that the woman he pushed away so violently was the one who saved him. Anisa’s long gone, but her spirit still populates his every thought.

While meeting with a mutual friend, Emily, Will seeks to determine if any recent news of Anisa exists. Of course, there is the strong social media presence that she has left—a digital breadcrumb trail—but it is not enough for Will. While his psychologist wants him to push out the emotions and start fresh, Will cannot help but pick at this one scab. Emily has nothing concrete to offer, as though Anisa has built a wall and left everyone on the outside. 

In an attempt at some closure or to pique his curiosity, Will and Emily embark on an adventure of their own to find Anisa. Their travels help Will come to terms with other issues from his past, though emotions still circle the drain and he is none the wiser to what happens. Yet, Emily has her own emotions that she is trying to decipher, as well as a secret that might help Will let Anisa be, once and for all!

As with all the other HUSH collection I have read to date, Lisa Unger’s writing is entirely new to me. I came upon this book and thought it was best to start with something a little quicker before committing to a full-length novel. Now that I had the chance with this story, I am eager to see what else there is to discover.

Unger creates her Will character as someone who is full of complexity and yet proves to be quite simple. He is still emotionally vulnerable from the loss of Anisa and stunted from the attempt to end his life. Trying to make a name for himself, Will relies on others to keep him stable, from parents who protect him to Emily, who seeks to help him fill in all the blanks. There are glimpses of backstory here, though much is lived in the present. As with many short stories, Unger has little room to develop her character, forcing the reader to love or hate him from the get-go. 

The story itself clipped along fairly well. It was more an emotional onion peeling than one of action and adventure. Unger uses the slow reveal of Will and his sentiments to fuel the larger Anisa mystery. The plot does evolve and the reader can see a few twists in the road, though much happens below the surface and it is the shifting of emotional headspace that proves to be the most significant ‘aha’ moment in the piece.

While the story is a single entry, there are a few section breaks that help provide a rest stop for the reader. Will seems to need this as much as the reader to gather thoughts and process what’s come to light, though Unger does well without the need for chapters. The narrative worked well and the dialogue pulled out the needed sentiments to keep the story from becoming a sob story for a lost love and a man mourning his mistakes. Not my usual fare, but I want to see what else Lisa Unger has to say, perhaps in something a little longer and full of action.

Kudos, Madam Unger, for this piece. I will be back to see if you’re one to add to my list of authors to follow!

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