After reading several novels in which people aren’t who they appear to be and the plots kind of blur together, I worried that “The Guilt Trip” by Sandie Jones would be another disappointment. I had really enjoyed her previous books: “The Other Woman,” “The First Mistake” and “The Half Sister.” I am thrilled to say that “The Guilt Trip” kept me enthralled and turning page after page till the surprising ending. And yes, there is one character who is not as he or she (no spoilers!) appears to be, but it’s not the usual kind of misleading characterization.
While the plot and setting seem reminiscent of other thrillers, a wedding set in a resort town on the beach with the small bridal party staying in a villa on the water, this story is told in third person limited narrative. So we see the events through Rachel’s eyes and her eyes only. We are privy to her thoughts about how she hopes she made the right decision when she married Jack instead of going overseas with her best friend Noah when he begged her.
Rachel and Noah were best friends for years and years. Their relationship was purely platonic, or so we believe at first. But over the course of this wedding trip, six friends will come to face the past that is threatening to destroy what they have. Rachel is married to Jack, and it’s Jack’s brother Will who is getting married. Ali is the bride, and first impressions are that she is not a very likable person. She seems to flirt with every man around, demand that she be the center of attention, and create drama where there should be none. Rachel isn’t thrilled that Ali will be her sister-in-law, but Will is madly in love. Also on this trip are Paige and Noah. Paige has become Rachel’s best friend after she married Rachel’s friend Noah. Each of the couples has one child. We learn that Rachel was dating Jack at the time Noah left for his overseas adventure after college, and an unexpected pregnancy caused them to marry, and they’ve had a good marriage ever since.
What we learn through Rachel’s eyes is how much she still cares for Noah. After we learn that Ali confesses to an affair with a married man. Rachel begins to wonder if the married man was Jack. As the other guests arrive, and more secrets are revealed, it seems that almost everyone has something to hide. The one person who seems to have nothing at all to hide ends up, ironically, having had perhaps the most secrets. In fact, Jones does a brilliant job of misdirection throughout the story by leading us to believe one thing and then revealing how gullible we were to not realize the truth. Because once we go back and reread some of the chapters (yes, you might just want to reread to see how the truth was hinted at), we can see how cleverly Jones plotted it all out.
If this is the first novel by Sandie Jones you read, you will definitely be hooked and want to read her three other novels.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Minotaur Books, the publisher, for review purposes.