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Book Review: A Common Loss by Kirsten Tranter

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Do you belong to a small group of trusted friends? Have you been friends for a long time? Yes or no, imagine a group of five people who have bonded since their college years. Each past year, they have traveled to Las Vegas to reconnect the threads of their lives and their friendships. It would seem that after ten years, they probably know secrets about one another — some intimate, some shared by few, some shared by all.

In Kirsten Tranter’s book, A Common Loss, a group of now only four friends arrives for their annual Vegas get-together. One of their group, Dylan, the very man the others thought was extremely stable, a good looking, responsible, down to earth person, a counselor you could talk to, had been killed in traffic riding his bicycle. Of course, the other four friends cannot help but discuss his tragic accidental passing.

They haunt the same bars, casinos, and nightclubs of previous years where they gamble and drink, often to excess. They flirt with the typical Las Vegas crowds that, like them, are stalking their own escape from the reality of routine work and worry. Each of the foursome finds it difficult to exclude Dylan from remembrances and conversations, such was the deep impact on their lives.

But letters arrive at their hotel. Each of the four receives a personally addressed sealed envelope. Strangely enough, the letter inside contains a personal secret each thought he or she had shared only with Dylan. In some instances, if this secret is exposed, it could have a disturbing, even shocking, effect on their current lives. To add to this mystery, Dylan’s young brother arrives at the hotel to meet with the anxious foursome.

Did he send the letters? How would he know to write them? Does he seek blackmail? Even more baffling is this: how could the four friends have been so terribly mistaken about Dylan’s personal friendship during the long nine years when he was alive? It’s as if Dylan never really died. Yet, why, why would someone play such a painful trick on those who felt he was one of their dearest companions?

It is here where I will leave the reader to figure out exactly what mystery lies hidden within and beneath the words sealed in each hush-hush envelope. Ever so cleverly, author Kristin reveals the deeply concealed parts of Dylan’s own life and that of his kin. The book is long enough for readers to feel for each of the characters and from the early-on moment the reader finds that even the narrator has a shameful slip-up to hide, a personal treachery to keep buried, the tale has a definite foreboding quality. I would recommend this tale to anyone looking for a read where hidden transgressions can destroy, because in the end, most of us harbor similar sins.

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