Book Review: Shades of Gray by Pamela Carrington Reid

I was so excited to read this book. The last (and only) book I've read by Pamela Carrington Reid was Something Familiar - which I totally loved. This time around, there were parts of the story I absolutely loved . . . and other parts I didn't like very much. Hang on to your seats, everyone. This is a very mixed review.

What I Liked:

I love Reid's vivid descriptions of New Zealand and Australia. Of course, that's where she's from, so she knows exactly what she's talking about when it comes to the land down under. I also love the way she writes. Every chapter just pulls me into the next one. I wasn't able to put this book down until it was finished!

Also, from a photographer's point of view, I really liked how she showed the photographer's love of the camera, composing the shot, and how he sees the world through in a whole new perspective when it's through the camera's lens. I think this was the first fiction novel I've read and genuinely liked the way photography was portrayed. It wasn't dull and lifeless - it was multi-dimensional and intriguing.

My favorite part was the romantic storyline. Is anyone surprised? I didn't think so. :) I completely related to Samara's confusion and indecision when it came to figuring out if Rick was really "The One". I'm sure there are lots of females out there who can relate. It's that part of the dating game when you think you've found Mr. Right, who is certainly Mr. Best Friend. But is he Mr. Forever? Or is Mr. Better-and-Forever still out there waiting to be discovered? That's where Samara is when you enter the book. And as she tries to figure it out, suddenly Adam (who introduced her to photography) reappears in her life. Could Adam be what Samara thinks may be missing in her life? I guess you'll have to read the book to find out!

What I Didn't Like:

The parts that bothered me the most, were the sections dealing with Samara's family's addictions. Not because such difficult issues were addressed in the book, but because I felt the difficulty of the addictions were glossed over. I have a lot of personal experience dealing with substance abuse; from an alcoholic father, to being a trained volunteer at a Women's Abuse shelter, to visiting teaching and working with a family who had drug addictions. You know how when you read a book and it's about something you know a ton about? Sometimes you're totally impressed with how well it was presented . . . and other times you're not? Well, in this case, I wasn't.

So, here's the breakdown of Samara's family: Her father is an alcoholic. Her mother is addicted to prescription medication (happy pills). And her brother has recently become addicted to smoking marijuana. Any one of these addictions would be difficult for a family to deal with. But having all three very different addictions makes the family very complex (and certainly overwhelming for Samara).

Like I said earlier, as I read, I felt the difficulty of the addictions was glossed over. But the parts that really bugged me - to the point I almost put the book down - were these (warning: possible book spoilers):

Towards the end of the book, Samara confronts her mom and dad about their addictions. It's then revealed, that mom and dad blame their addictions on Samara. Why? Because when she was 14 years old, Samara came home one day to find her parents fighting. Her mother had just found out her father (who is a long-distance truck driver) has been living with another woman for months in another part of the country. While the parents work things out, forgive each other, and stay together - Samara never forgives her father and doesn't understand how her mother could have stayed with him. In fact, it seems that Samara doesn't know her mother actually forgave her father & that her father changed his ways because every time dad is home, mom starts over-dosing on her happy pills and dad drinks too much. Their excuse? Being around Samara her and her hostility, drove them to their addictions.

This makes me stop and think - So who were the adults? Aren't they supposed to be mom and dad? And as adults, why do they need to blame their bad choices on their heart-broken and traumatized daughter, rather than taking responsibility for their poor choices?

I also didn't like how the addictions are "resolved". Dad, who is not LDS, starts to discover the gospel, and suddenly alcoholism isn't a problem any more (or at least, that's how I felt it played out). Then, the comment is made TWICE, that mom and son can go on a "weekly date" to rehab. I really didn't like the "weekly date" comment. I also felt that it gave a too light-hearted tone to what a difficult path recovering from addiction really is like.

So there you go. A bit of what I liked and didn't like. I should say, another person without as much experience with substance abuse might now feel as strongly about these scenes as I did.

QOTC Rating: Three Stars

Would you like to comment?

Jennie said...

Excellent analysis of this book. It is well-written and does draw the reader in, but like you I couldn't swallow the idea of the child's unforgiving attitude being the reason the family was so dysfunctional and the addiction solution was too easy.

Danyelle Ferguson said...


Thank you for your comments. I had wondered if others would have similar feelings. Have a great day!

Karlene said...

I haven't read this book yet, but I want to. I, too, have had some experience with addictions and will probably feel the same as you. Thanks for the review.

Danyelle Ferguson said...


You're welcome. I think you'll enjoy her writing style and other parts of the book, but yeah, the addiction plot will be hard to swallow. Thanks for stopping by!