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The Familiar Stranger

The Familiar Stranger

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by Christina Berry
     
 

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Craig Littleton's decision to end his marriage would shock his wife, Denise... if she only knew what he was up to. When an accident lands Craig in the ICU, with fuzzy memories of his own life and plans, Denise rushes to his side, ready to care for him.

They embark on a quest to help Craig remember who he is and, in the process, they discover dark

Overview


Craig Littleton's decision to end his marriage would shock his wife, Denise... if she only knew what he was up to. When an accident lands Craig in the ICU, with fuzzy memories of his own life and plans, Denise rushes to his side, ready to care for him.

They embark on a quest to help Craig remember who he is and, in the process, they discover dark secrets: An affair? An emptied bank account? A hidden identity? An illegitimate child?

But what will she do when she realizes he's not the man she thought he was? Is this trauma a blessing in disguise, a chance for a fresh start? Or will his secrets destroy the life they built together?

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802447319
Publisher:
Moody Publishers
Publication date:
08/25/2009
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Familiar Stranger


By Christina Berry, Pam Pugh

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2009 Christina Berry
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57567-362-2


CHAPTER 1

His

I WRAPPED A TOWEL AROUND my waist as Denise stalked into the bathroom. Avoiding her eyes, I wiped a clear spot on the steamy mirror and studied my reflection. A caged man, a Houdini, stared back at me. Bound inside a straitjacket, locked in chains, submerged in a tank, I could taste the metallic tang of the key hidden in my mouth. If I held my breath a little longer and waited for the right time to rip my shoulder from its socket, I would escape my stifling life.

"Did you wipe down the shower, Craig?"

What harm would happen if once, just once, I left droplets on the glass doors? I bit back my retort. "Of course, honey."

"Good." She peered into the brushed-silver mirror hanging above the white marble countertop—a bathroom that had cost me a month's wages—and added another layer to her lipstick. "Need to hurry if we're going to be on time."

"I'm not going." I said it as if I didn't care one way or the other what she thought of my bombshell.

"What are you talking about?" Her shoulders tightened into unnatural stillness.

I rubbed the scruff of my neck and scrutinized my image. A few wrinkles around the eyes. Two slight recessions on either side of the hairline. Not bad for a guy of forty-six.

"Craig, the deacons' meeting is right after the service and you've missed the last two. Are you trying to sabotage your position?" Her reflected hazel eyes drilled into me.

For a second I thought of giving it all up, going to church with her and the kids, acting as though that was all I had planned for the day. Then the image faded and a pair of deep brown eyes replaced hers. No, I wouldn't be setting foot in a house of worship this Sunday, or ever again.

She wouldn't turn away without some kind of explanation.

"Denise, every day of the week I'm looking into people's mouths. Different teeth, different breath, same office, same chair. Same mindless, indecipherable banter. This is my one day off and I'm not going to waste it sitting in a pew with a bunch of pretenders."

"Pretenders?" Her lipstick tube tumbled to the counter, leaving a blood-red slash against its starkness. "Sometimes I don't understand you at all." As she rubbed a tissue over the spot, the red smeared across the dead veins in the rock, veins that merged and parted, crossed and died, without purpose or pattern.

Had I pushed too hard? The last thing I needed this morning was an interrogation built on suspicion.

I'd planned this day for too long to blow it now.

I turned and put my arms around her. "I'm going crazy. Call it a midlife crisis if you will, but I can't put on a tie and sing a happy little hymn. I'm going hiking."

Relaxing into my embrace, she fingered my jawline. "Hiking, huh? Along the trails in Washington Park?"

Why do you always have to make a suggestion so it still seems as if I'm doing what you want? It was her fault I had to carry out my plan.

Yet I had to feign tenderness, feign caring. I tried to smile. "No, to Multnomah Falls. The weather's supposed to be great in the gorge."

Denise stiffened again and moved away from me, heading into the bedroom. "The Columbia Gorge is kind of a long drive for a spur-of-the-moment thing, don't you think?"

Trailing after her, I recalled all the weekends I'd spent following her from one of the kids' soccer games to her friends' barbeques after work on Saturday. Waking the next day to the usual church service, out for lunch with another of her friends—the husband and I pretending camaraderie even though we knew nothing more about each other than our favorite football teams. Back to church for the evening meeting. Finally dropping into bed, dreading the idea of telling people to floss more, brush with softer bristles, lay off the self-whitening strips for a while, and all the other advice I dispensed only to have it ignored.

I slipped on a pair of loose jogging shorts and a T-shirt over my head. "Give me today, and I'll do whatever you want next Sunday."

"Fine." She sighed. "Your mind's made up anyway. I'll figure out something to tell everyone."

"Say a dental emergency came up. A root canal."

She touched the edge of the dresser and balanced on one foot while she slid on a new shoe, a beaded red high heel. I'm sure it set me back a pretty penny. Dyed honey-blonde hair hung over her face as she leaned over to put the other shoe on, calf flexing. I was surprised at how young and attractive she looked. Apparently our physical connection still flowed deep, like the veins in the marble, but my heart sat cold and dense.

What was I doing? Maybe I could—

No. I steeled myself, kissed her forehead for the last time, and wandered down the hallway in search of the boys. I found them in the bonus room, sprawled on the couch, playing a shoot-'em-up video game. Nicolas, fifteen, had gelled his hair into a conservative style and wore a blue oxford. Twelve-year-old Jamie's hair stuck up in blond-tipped spikes. His orange shirt, black flames blazing across the front, shouted, "Look at me!" But the shirt was a button-up, so technically it met Denise's church dress code.

"Guys?" I cleared my throat. "Guys."

They turned their attention from the TV screen.

"Want to skip church and go for a hike?" I held my breath.

Jamie cocked his head back. "Are you serious?"

My heart stopped for a second. I'd been so sure they wouldn't take me up on my invitation. Asking them, and getting turned down—that was what I had counted on.

Nick paused the game and shook his head. "I'm helping with children's church."

Laughing, Jamie jabbed Nick's shoulder. "What he means is that he's helping Heather McCallister with children's church." He turned his attention back to me. "Mom's letting you play hooky?"

I nodded, ignoring the insinuation that Denise arranged my days.

"Man." He kicked at the coffee table. "I'm skateboarding with some friends at the park after lunch. But I can ditch them and come with you, if you want."

"No, no. You do what you've planned."

Nicolas unpaused the game and they went back to shooting each other.

It struck me as an odd pastime to pursue before a sermon. I stood for a moment, gazing at my boys. Almost men. Would they miss me if I weren't around? Denise did everything for them, though I financed it all. I could still do that, fulfill my financial role, even if ...

My heart thumped, sped up, grew louder, drowned out the sound effects of the guns. Blackness crept into the sides of the room, and I feared I would pass out right in front of the boys. Closing my eyes, I focused on breathing in and out slowly.

The episode passed.

I wanted one last contact with my sons as well. I squeezed the back of Jamie's neck and pulled on Nick's ear before I left the room.

Denise walked past me, positioning her body so we wouldn't accidentally-touch. "Boys, time to turn off the game and get into the car."

The boys yelled their good-byes and clattered down the stairs and out to the garage. Denise followed. A mechanical drone signaled the garage door's opening; another, its closing.

I was left standing in the hall directly in front of the family portrait we'd ordered after Jamie's birth. Denise's face glowed, her arms wrapped around the baby. I stared at my image, a three-year-old Nicolas perched on my lap.

Would I have a different life if I'd been a different father, a different husband?

Probably not. No matter how intently I inspected the photo, I couldn't read anything but satisfaction in my expression. Had I really been happy? Or had I been more willing to fake it then?

"No longer." I rubbed sweaty palms over the front of my shirt and glanced down at the wet streaks. Without thinking, I'd put on a white shirt. Denise had to know I was wearing black shorts with a blue shirt. It was critical to the plan. Nervous energy surged through my body.

Should I call her? Say I've changed my shirt?

And have her think I'd completely lost my mind? I pantomimed holding a phone. "Hi, honey. I know you've just left the house, but I'm wearing a blue shirt now. It matches my eyes better." Yeah, right.

A reason. All I needed was a reason. I hustled to the kitchen, smeared some ketchup—she knew I loved scrambled eggs with ketchup for breakfast—on the sleeve as if I'd wiped my mouth on my arm. Upstairs, I threw it in the hamper and found the blue shirt I needed to wear.

"The devil's in the details." My father's voice echoed in my mind, vibrating like my childhood house after he slammed the door and walked away from our family for the last time.


Hers

THE SHOWER STOPPED and I heard Craig step out. I waited until I was sure he'd covered himself and hurried in to check my makeup. Thinking of the tension between us over the last few months had me biting at my lower lip again. Craig always thought that was so cute when we were dating, but now ...

I rolled my lips in as I passed him. No sense in giving him the opportunity to ridicule me for a silly bad habit.

When he'd first started picking at me, I took everything personally. All my efforts at self-improvement came to naught. So I started talking. To Craig. To my pastor. Eventually to a counselor. I showed all my emotional cards and begged for some insight in return. Yet the tighter I pulled at him, the harder he fought.

My new tactic, besides constant prayer, was to keep it light and easy, distract with the mundane. "Did you wipe down the shower, Craig?"

He smirked, as if I were a prison warden set on micromanaging his life. "Of course, honey." The endearment demeaned me.

"Good." I ignored his inflection and put on a fresh coat of lipstick to cover my tooth prints. "Need to hurry if we're going to be on time."

He posed in front of the mirror. "I'm not going to church."

"What are you talking about?" I'm sure my eyes asked more questions than just that one. Like, Why don't I feel like I know you anymore? or Why do I hold my breath when you walk into a room and relax when you leave?

He launched into a tirade, sharp words filled with calm anger. My lipstick slipped through my fingers as I listened, numb. I searched his face, hoping to see some sign of the man who had stood next to me at the altar and pledged to be the spiritual leader of our home. All I perceived was a magic show, a sleight of hand, a transformation into a contained, painfully polite man. He gentled his voice and explained it all away with the phrase "midlife crisis."

I completely agreed with his self-assessment. Midlife crisis was not just some term to cover buying a convertible—which Craig already had—but a full-on assault to the durability of our marriage. According to my therapist, Craig and I were "dealing with major communication issues."

Yet, when he held me, my body betrayed me, practically melting into him. Was I so desperate for his attention, his physical touch, I could ignore his uncaring behavior the instant his arms came around me? The implication rattled my dry soul. I pulled away, left the bathroom, and hunted for a pair of shoes that matched my red and cream suit.

Setting the heels next to the dresser, I remembered the first pair of brand-new shoes I'd bought before Craig's graduation from dental school. I made do with secondhand sandals while he studied and fretted over the baby on the way. Then—like the first beams of sunshine through a wrung-out cloud—he told me to get a new pair of shoes for the commencement ceremony. Soon, he told me, all of our sacrifices were going to pay off. Literally.

Tipping my head so my hair would hide the tears welling in my eyes, I slipped the shoes on. I kept looking at the floor as he kissed my forehead and left the room. Sinking onto the duvet, I couldn't keep the tears from seeping out. When had our joint effort at marriage turned into two Clydesdales pulling in opposite directions?

From the bonus room, I heard Craig ask the boys if they'd like to go hiking with him. A new veil of tears came. Yes, it was the first weekend of summer vacation, but had he even thought to ask if I would go with him? After all, he was right. He did work hard every day except Sunday. Surely the Lord wouldn't begrudge him one day of relaxation. A day to soothe the heat of burnout I felt flaming from him.

Was it his job? I'd seen an article once that said dentists had one of the highest rates of suicide for professionals. For Craig, I wasn't sure if the hours, the work, or the demands of his family stressed him more. Whatever the case, he had ceased flirting with me long ago. He used to chase me around the house when the kids were little, catch me by the waist, and tickle me. As soon as the boys laughed, he'd chase after them. When was the last time we had shared a laugh as a family?

I stood, dabbing a tissue at each eyelid. One glance at my watch said my mascara fix would have to wait for a red light on the way.

Craig came out of the bonus room just as I entered the hall. His shoulders filled the doorway. Most people tended to think of dentists as little men, very precise, wearing glasses, with looming nose hair. My husband was nothing like that. He was built like a runner, a true athlete, one whose muscles bulged as he drove his arms forward and yanked his knees up. His fingers were fine and long. Adept at what he did.

One touch of his hand, and I would melt into an emotional mess again. I edged past him, praying he wouldn't reach out. My breath came a little easier once I walked out of range.

Nicolas and Jamie turned off the game the first time I asked. They had always been good at doing what they were told. Must have gotten it from me. Sure as rain deluged our part of Oregon in November, they didn't inherit it from their father.

Stomach clenching at the idea of leaving Craig with such little discussion about his decision, I mustered the determination to let him make his own choices and led the boys to the SUV.

Nicolas called shotgun a millisecond before Jamie, throwing himself into the front seat.

I fumbled to get the key into the ignition.

Jamie leaned forward through the gap in the front seats and punched the garage door opener clamped to the sun visor above my head. "Dad's really not coming?"

"He needs a break." The key slid into the slot.

"You okay with that, Mom?" Nicolas fastened his seat belt.

I patted his knee, grateful for his thoughtfulness. "Sure, I'm fine." My hand shook as I reached for the wheel.

CHAPTER 2

His

COMPARED TO A USUAL day's traffic, I-5 toward Portland stretched out ahead, full of empty space. A RAV4 zoomed past my Mustang, zigzagged through three lanes of traffic, and followed a ramp off toward Lake Oswego. I was in no hurry. I'd planned this day for so long, timing various routes, considering every eventuality. As long as I took care of the details, nothing could go wrong.

I drifted into the middle lane. Mentally, I drifted back to Denise and the boys, to our last family trip. We'd given Jamie his first surfboard, though Denise made him save up his own money for the wet suit. Which took way too long, until I slipped him the last twenty. Nicolas shuddered at the thought of riding the waves. He would rather sneak around the tide pools, explore the creatures hiding in the still waters.

On that first day, Jamie caught a wave. His skinny form, clad in the black wet suit, wobbled back and forth over the board. He rode it out and shouted with triumph. I liked to think his determination and talent came from me. Anything I ever put my mind to, I'd excelled at. He sure hadn't inherited it from Denise. The only worthwhile thing she'd accomplished the whole time I'd known her was latching on to me.

I veered off the freeway at the next exit, stopped at the light, and lowered the automatic top of the convertible.

A woman in the car next to mine rubbed her full lips together. Catching me staring at her, she traced the outline of her mouth with the edge of her coffee cup.

Grinning, I winked.

She tossed her head and waved with her left hand, highlighting the unadorned ring finger. The light turned green and she accelerated across the intersection.

I'd almost forgotten about the constricting band on my own finger, one of those details I could not afford to overlook. I should have felt something then, some seizing of my heart that I could be cruel enough to leave my family. But I didn't. I pictured my heart, a pea-sized pebble rolling around in the cavity of my chest.

Turning right, I scanned the parking lot of the corner convenience store. A man stood between the two graffitied bathroom doors on the side of the store nearest the Dumpster. I parked in the corner of the empty lot, entered the store, and meandered through the aisles, making sure the security cameras captured plenty of footage of me from different angles. There could never be any doubt I'd been in the store alone.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry, Pam Pugh. Copyright © 2009 Christina Berry. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

Christina Berry’s stories are wonderfully told, rich in detail, exact in dialogue, and exciting from the moment you begin reading!
-Eva Marie Everson, author of The Potluck Club series

As readers discover Christina’s writing and realize how friendly and approachable she is, they won’t be disappointed.
-Donna Fleisher, author of the Homeland Heroes series

Christina Berry is a woman who really understands how men think. The Familiar Stranger had me from the very first sentence, and it kept me flipping pages right through to the end. It’s a terrific debut novel and I’ll be watching eagerly for her next one.
-Randy Ingermanson, Christy award-winning author of Oxygen

Christina Berry writes with language that stimulates the senses while challenging our thoughts. She ties mystery with inspiration, giving us good stories well told.
-Jane Kirkpatrick, author of All Together in One Place, A Clearing in the Wild, and A Name of Her Own

The Familiar Stranger is a great ride. From the opening page to the very last I had to know more. Christina Berry’s original voice and her ability to raise uncertainty drives the reader forward to a surprising ending. A wonderful first book!
-Bonnie Leon, author of the Sydney Cove series

The Familiar Stranger crackles with energy and intrigue. The characters gripped me; the situation haunted me. I didn’t want to put it down.
-Jill Elizabeth Nelson, author of the To Catch a Thief series

Meet the Author


Mother and foster parent CHRISTINA BERRY carves time to write from her busy schedule because she must tell the stories that haunt her every waking moment. (Such is the overly dramatic description of an author's life!) She holds a BA in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem, as well. Sign up for her infrequent, humorous newsletter at www.authorchristinaberry.blogspot.com.

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Familiar Stranger 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anne-B More than 1 year ago
"Warm, pollinated air whispered over me. The hospital's circulation filters removed all the germs and odors from the indoor air, but they also stripped it of its personality." writes Christine Berry in The Familiar Stranger From the first chapter, and even the first paragraph, I knew this was a good book. It reminded me of NCIS (probably my favorite TV show). The characters have personality. As the reader, you see their flaws, but they're part of who they are and you want to know their story. I realize more and more what a skill writing a good story is---to convey important details about a conversation and not make it feel too slow or too fast, but very real and believable. That was what pleased and surprised me about Ms. Berry's writing. It didn't feel stilted or ingenuous. I wanted to read this book because the premise sounded intriguing and different. And it proved to be so! I don't want to give anything away about this book. From the back of the book, you know that the story is about a man who was planning to leave his wife (though she doesn't know) when he has an accident and wakes up with amnesia. I thought I knew how it would end at the beginning and it did turn out that I was right, but it felt like a long shot and there was enough doubt in my mind to make the journey from the beginning to the end very interesting. Honestly, this is the best fiction book I've read in a long time. Please check it out if you're looking for a good read! Please note that I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book for review by Moody Publishing.
LouiseJolly More than 1 year ago
What a compelling and undeniable page turner!!! Christina Berry's "The Familiar Stranger" had me hooked from the very beginning and held me right through to the end. The twists, the turns and the bombshell that was dropped in the novel, was for me anyway, totally unexpected!!!! That was THE BEST surprise in a novel that I've read in a long while...way to go!! The characters were well drawn and most of all REAL. I felt like I'd been transported from my chair into the pages of the book, melting my way into the words so that they became my reality. I was there, walking alongside Denise as she struggled her way through the nightmare she was living. I kept wanting to 'tap' her on the shoulder and giving her advice, but of course, that wasn't possible so I had to be patient and wait until she came to some of the conclusions herself. However, on the other hand, I was nine times out of ten, glad I "couldn't" tap her on the shoulder because my advice would have been dead wrong!! lol Ooohh, the lies and the secrets that people create only drag them further into the abyss of deceit. What's that old saying: "Oh what tangled webs we weave when we practice to deceive." But alas, our faith in God and the power of forgiveness is our saving grace. Not to be misused or abused as one must be a believer, one must have a deep faith and a deep understanding of God for He truly knows what is in our hearts and our minds. The Familiar Stranger is a testament to the power of Christ and the forgiveness He offers us. I was captivated from the first page of this novel and found myself reading faster and faster, flipping pages quicker than leaves blowing off a tree on a windy fall day. Christina, you've written one of the BEST debut novels I've read in years and hope that you are currently penning a second?? Thanks for reminding us through the words in this story that forgiveness is a powerful tool when used with deep thought and heartfelt meaning. And rest assured, your book is now part of my PERMANENT COLLECTION!
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Janna6 More than 1 year ago
I have heard good things about this book, but I have to admit I was still a little skeptical because it looks pretty woman's fiction to me... you know, all relationships, my life isn't perfect, my husbands a jerk, blah, blah, blah. But I really wanted to give it a try because I met Christina in September at ACFW and I was so impressed with her as a person that I had to see if she could write. Okay people, it is official. This girl can write! She blew my mind with this book. I expected it to take me awhile to read, nope, couldn't put it down and finished it in 24 hours. I figured I'd see everything coming, nope, twists and turns down to the very end. I thought I'd be bored with all the woman's issues, nope, it was actually almost more mystery then woman's fiction. I just knew that I'd add it to my pile of one time read woman's fiction books, nope, this book might make it to my keeper shelf. If you are looking for fresh and different, pick up The Familiar Stranger and see if it doesn't blow your mind a little too!
ChristysBookBlog More than 1 year ago
Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry is an emotional rollercoaster novel filled with suspense. Denise Littleton has been feeling the cracks in her marriage for the last several years. Her husband, Craig, treats her with disdain, turning away her attempts at affection and belittling her every move. When he's in a car accident that wipes his memory, it at first seems to be a blessing. The familiar strangers fall in love; he pays attention to their sons, and they are finally finding the life Denise has always wanted. Until Craig's secrets start coming out, shattering their calm and exposing his lies. Berry mines every bit of emotion by alternating narration between Craig and Denise to show their growing feelings and confusion. Astute readers will figure out what's going on, but the superb writing keeps them guessing about particulars. Two small areas of concern: Denise runs hot and cold with the turn of a page with no explanation, and a vital piece of information is casually tossed out near the beginning of the book, but when all of the secrets are exposed, it isn't referenced, making the ending a bit less satisfying. Those issues won't stop readers from devouring this enthralling story.
MichelleSutton More than 1 year ago
The Familiar Stranger was a real page turner. It was written so well that it wasn't until I was three quarters of the way through the story that I realized the point of view for each person (titled his and hers respectively in the novel) was written in the first person past tense. This was very well done and flawlessly executed, IMHO. The Familiar Stranger is also the perfect title for this incredible tale. It was an intriguing and a profoundly mysterious story that kept me guessing until nearly the end. At first I was thinking something was occurring like what happened Rekindled by Tamera Alexander. Then I thought it could be like The Man in the Iron Mask starring Leonardo Dicaprio. Then I thought of the movie Summersby starring Jodie Foster. Long story short, this delightfully romantic and emotional tale was one of the most amazing debuts I've read in a long time. It was well thought out, excellently plotted, and the characterization was so believable that it left me breathless. Yeah, I even got choked up several times, especially toward the end. I found the resolution in The Familiar Stranger more satisfying and believeable than if the story had been taken a different direction. The unique spiritual perspective was also truly inspirational, which is why this book is making my best fiction for 2009 list. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AuthorKellyMoran More than 1 year ago
Author Christina Berry is a single mom and foster parent, carving time out of a busy schedule to write. The Familiar Stranger is her debut novel. She resides with her family in Oregon. Denise and Craig's seventeen year marriage had been on the rocks for some time. He could be cold and distant, and she could be controlling and obsessive. With him working long hours and frequenting short temper, it left them both with a deep sadness. Then, while in church, Denise's cell phone rings and she is blown away when she finds out that Craig has been in an accident. With Craig having no memory of her, their two sons, or their life together, Denise is determined to make this a fresh start for them all. She keeps vigil in the hospital and stands by him through his painful recovery. But secrets are emerging about his life before the accident, leaving Denise with more questions than answers, and wondering if she ever knew Craig at all. Why was he standing by the side of the highway in the first place? Who was the stranger with him? How many more betrayals will she uncover? Can she forgive a man who is so obviously changed? And then, suddenly, his memories come flooding back. Admittedly, and though nothing provoked me to feel this way, I didn't have high hopes for this book. Honestly, I thought it was going to resemble a soap opera. How wrong I was. I was blown away by how powerful this book was. Told from first-person point-of-view from both main characters, Denise and Craig, this story will draw you in from the first page and hold you captive until the last. It sends a strong message of faith, (which will interest inspirational readers), has a puzzle to the plot as the secrets are revealed, (which will interest mystery lovers), shows the roots and troubles within a marriage, (which married persons can relate to), a bit of romance, and a strong dramatic element which fictional readers can revel in. I figured out where the author was going with the book about half-way through, but it did not deter me from reading as there were things I didn't see coming as well, nor was I disappointed with the ending. Revealing any more will ruin it for future readers, but trust me when I say that this was a very well-written, engaging, and bittersweet story- one in which shouldn't be overlooked. Kelly Moran, Author and Reviewer
DLiesner More than 1 year ago
Denise Littleton is struggling to hold her marriage together, and doesn't realize that her husband Craig has some dark secrets and sinister plans. She is wavering between suspicion and desperate hope when she gets a phone call at church that changes her life. She rushes to care for her injured husband but constant mysteries and revelations make new suspicions arise including whether his amnesia is real or a convenient alibi. But this is not just Denise's story. I particularly enjoyed the male and female perspectives through the dual first-person storylines. As the invalid recovers, choices of trust and forgiveness are faced. Just as in the real-life events upon which Ms. Berry based her story, the shocking events and choices ripple out to affect family and community members as well as the Littleton marriage. A haunting well-written drama with excellent takeaway for troubled relationships.
Brenda_Anderson More than 1 year ago
When Craig Littleton leaves his home, he plans to never return, to abandon his wife and sons in pursuit of freedom. And his detailed plans are foolproof. But, as he literally drives on the road toward liberty, he's involved in a severe accident. He lives, but all his memories are gone. His wife, Denise, unaware of his plans to desert the family, nurses him back to health, and he learns to love her again. But then, his memories come tumbling back . Will he be able to restore all the lives he broke before the accident? *** In the tradition of Francine Rivers, debut author, Christina Berry, delivers an impactful story of love, betrayal, forgiveness, & new beginnings. Her unique method of telling the story from both Denise's and Craig's point-of-view adds dimension to the characters, & depth to the emotions. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.
anemulligan More than 1 year ago
2009 has been a year of some wonderful debut novels, and Christina Berry has penned one of the best. A work of women's fiction, The Familiar Stranger's complex plot is filled with the twists and red herrings of an Agatha Christie mystery. The answer came so far out of left field, Agatha wouldn't have predicted it. Engaging characters, cunning, and quicksilver emotions add up to a story that held me hostage, spellbound to the end. Novel Journey/Reviews and I give it our highest recommendation.
bantzbooks.com More than 1 year ago
I read this book straight through and I'm looking forward to her next novel. Denise knows her marriage has gone cold, but when she receives a call that her husband has been in an accident, everything turns topsy-turvy. As if broken limbs, road burns, and skin grafts aren't enough, when he comes out of his coma, he doesn't remember anything, not her, not their sons, nothing. Even as she and Craig begin to establish a new relationship, secrets from his past crop up. And just when she thinks that she's forgiven him everything, and they are starting to establish a new and better love for each other, she finds out something more devastating. I loved this book, especially when she had come to a standstill in the forgiving department and the pastor says, "Right now you're acting like the judge, stamping GUILTY on each page of Craig's life. Maybe it's time you change your stamp." You'll love the surprise ending. Totally satisfying.
JoHuddleston More than 1 year ago
Craig is not the man Denise married; he works long hours, he's often away on extended business trips and they're not as close as they were when they married twenty years ago. Their marriage has lost its glitter and Denise wonders if his distant behavior is her fault. Craig skips church one morning saying he needs a break and is going hiking. Instead, he puts into motion his intricate plan to end their marriage. This book takes off on page one and doesn't stop until it's finished. Throughout the book Ms. Berry tells this story from the perspectives of both Craig and Denise. She presents this format of "His" and "Hers" with perfection and immerses the reader into the story until you just have to turn the pages! Berry introduces well-developed and memorable characters and a strong, swift plot. This debut novel from her whets my appetite for her next book. A good read!
LovenGod More than 1 year ago
The Familiar Stranger Christina Berry 2009 Moody Press Fiction/Christian/Contemporary Reviewed by Cindy Loven An accident, leaves one man horribly injured, and in a drug induced coma, and another man dead. Denise rushes to the hospital to be with her husband, Dr. Craig Littleton. He was injured when a car hit his parked car beside the freeway. But who was the man who died? And why was he with Craig? And why was Craig parked alongside the freeway? Why was he arguing with the strange man, as passing motorists noticed? What was going on? These questions plague Denise, but the police clear up the mystery, sort of, it seems. They discover the dead man was William Rodain, a patient of her husbands. But why he was with Craig, was still a mystery. Denise stands beside Craig, amazed at how different his personality is, as he is slowly recovering. He has trauma induced amnesia, and doesn't remember her or their sons. Hopeful that his homecoming will jog his memory, they all look forward to him coming home and getting well. Follow this fascinating, fast paced story from beginning to end. See Denise fall in love with her husband all over again. Discover her kindness and developing friendship with the daughter of the man who died in the accident. See the boys grow into a loving and better relationship with their dad. Discover secrets, that hurt and should never had to be revealed. Learn about the infidelities that Craig indulged in before the accident. See forgiveness at its most merciful. A wonderfully written book, this debut novel from Christina Berry will most definitely be a book to share with friends and family. Discussion questions for book groups and clubs included. 5 stars 334 pages $13.99 US