FINDING MARY BLAINE
Mira August 2004
Reviewer Sissy Jacobson
Jodi Thomas, well known for her historical romances, has given us an outstandingly good contemporary thriller about a young couple, Blaine and Mark Anderson, who have been living their lives around Mark’s political ambitions. Blaine is quietly reserved, preferring to let Mark, the outgoing half of their marriage, take the limelight. She is happy being a well-groomed wife, perfect hostess, and part time archivist, while living mostly in the background.
An explosion in a downtown Austin, Texas clinic has the newspapers listing Blaine among the dead. Knowing Mark will be devastated, she makes her way to his office building, only to find someone wants her out of the picture permanently. Thus begins her odyssey of hiding in plain sight. She lops off her long blond hair and dyes it brown, then lives among the street people. Here is where Jodi Thomas’s skills as a writer really shine. She describes the people and how they live in such a realistic way we really get to know them. Blaine becomes Mary Blaine and while learning to survive on the streets with no I.D. and no money, she comes to care deeply about the people around her. Blaine Anderson is finding out who she really is, and if she ever gets out of this alive, she is determined to live a more meaningful life.
In the meantime, Mark is going through a grief so deep he stays huddled on the couch in the dark. He is beginning to realize how much he has depended on Blaine and has taken her for granted. He trusts the wrong people who pretend to understand and sympathize with him. However, he too begins to open up to others, especially one of his eccentric neighbors who really tries to help him. After the autopsy reports come in, Mark knows Blaine is not dead, but where is she? He teams up with a police detective and his eccentric neighbor, and the nail biting suspense kicks into high gear.
Blaine and Mark both learn valuable lessons through their ordeal. It is a joy to watch them grow, each in their own way. The tension keeps you turning the pages as Blaine comes so close to getting caught several times. The characters who become her friends also become ours. As Blaine’s pregnancy begins to show, the street people become more protective of her. She also befriends people, and by helping one change her life, she proves that people see what they want to see. One day while working as waitress in a café, three women from her ‘other’ life come in. At first she is afraid they will recognize her since she recently worked closely with them on charity committees. However, when she waits on them, they don’t even look up. When she brings their order, she deliberately places her face very near theirs, but still they don’t notice the ‘help’. This should be a lesson to all of us.
Jodi Thomas is one of my favorite authors. I have read all of her books and have all of her Texas historical romances on my keeper shelf. However, FINDING MARY BLAINE may be her best writing to date. An example from the first page of Chapter One describes how Blaine Anderson feels about herself before her life changes. "Like an invisible cloud, change drifted near. But Blaine wasn’t a warrior who’d ride out to face it. She was a coward who’d hide and hope it wouldn’t find her nestled into the urban hills of her hometown." Jodi Thomas always tells a good story, but something about the immediacy and intricacy of this one puts it in a category by itself. It is realistic in the way fiction can be realistic … sort of riding just slightly above believability. If you haven’t read this one yet, I urge you to read it and let me know what you think.
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