RBCxHS August '18: Still Lives
When Kim Lord, a well-known artist and provocateur, goes missing on the day of her big gallery debut, speculations regarding her disappearance impacts the lives of all those close to the artist and the gallery.
Still Lives by Maria Hummel is the Reese's Book Club x Hello Sunshine pick for August 2018! Mystery, feminism, social commentary - this book has it all!
Maggie Richter, an editor at the Rocque Museum in Los Angeles, is close to the Kim Lord project for two reasons - her employer is hosting Lord’s big event, and Lord is dating Greg, Maggie’s ex-boyfriend of several years. Lord’s project, Still Lives, is a series of paintings featuring her as famous female murder victims like Nicole Brown and The Black Dhalia, and reflects the murders in the gorey ways in which they were killed. After Lord’s no-show and disappearance, Maggie begins her own investigation and it leads her down a dangerous and emotional path.
I love a good who-dun-it novel and this book does not disappoint. If you've already read the book, scroll down to read my thoughts!
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** Spoilers Ahead **
Seriously, I have a lot of thoughts on the book and it will ruin the book for you if you haven't read it.
I know that the main theme of this novel is to highlight the strange social phenomenon of fetishizing beautiful, dead women. However, the biggest impact this book had on me was the relationship between Maggie and Private Detective Ray Hendricks.
"We only know what we see, and then we intuit."..."But the interesting thing about intuition is how little it tells us about the external world, and how much it tells us about ourselves. You think he's dumping her. I think he owes her money for her child. Our theories reveal us."
I loved this interaction between Maggie and Ray so much because it forces Maggie and the readers to reevaluate assumptions in the Kim Lord case. It isn't just a great lesson for the book, but it is a great lesson for life and I find myself mentally revisiting that quote regularly. My assumption at the beginning of the book was that Greg murdered Kim and was manipulating Maggie because he knew he could, and knew she would be his champion in pleading his faux innocence. What does that say about me? Who did you think the murderer was and what does that say about you? It is a fascinating thought that we could have all made completely different assumptions based on what we had intuited from our own experiences, and in the end, we were all wrong.
Also, Ray makes Maggie lie about what happened to her at the Rocque Estate, and he justifies it by telling her, "You accuse a famous killer of trying to murder you, and you can never be yourself again. You'll be in the trial, the newspapers, TV, you'll be the one who escaped, but your life won't be yours. It'll be hers. Don't let her have it."
Had I been in Maggie’s shoes, I would have wanted what Maggie wanted - what she said she wanted - the truth that it was she who truly caught the killer, and to validate all her efforts and grief and near-death experience. Beyond that, I think she wanted to show the public that she was not jilted by the rejection of her ex-boyfriend Greg, but rather, that she went above and beyond for someone who broke her heart. But truly, in the end, I think she wanted to prove to the world that she was better than Kim because she actually survived and Kim did not. Kim, the celebrity that had the love of the man she lost. Kim, the successful artist that filled the void of Greg’s mother that Maggie could not. Kim, the woman that made her feel less than. Kim would now be seen as the woman who was killed and Maggie would be seen as the brave woman who lived and got away. Maggie finally succeed where Kim could not and the world would know that. That is what I think Maggie wanted - that is what I think I would have selfishly and vainly wanted too.
But all of that disappeared when Ray told her to lie to the investigator - to say that she fell and not shoved into a death-pit by a murderess. At first, this really annoyed me, but I could not stop thinking about it after I finished the book. It took a few days for me to realize that Ray was absolutely right. With the truth, Maggie would have to be at every trial, would be hounded by reporters and be forever linked to Kim and Evie. With the lie, she could recover in peace and leave that past behind her should she choose to. She could meet people and not have every conversation begin with musings on the murder, the murderess, and her attempted murder. Evie is already going to jail for killing Kim - compounding Maggie’s story to it does nothing other than add years to a life sentence and disturb Maggie’s future.
Truly, at the end of the book, Ray was the character who had the biggest impact on me. Mind you, his actions were subsequent to the happenings of the investigation, but his two quotes were the ones that really made this book stand out to me. I read a bunch of reviews about reflecting on the main themes of this novel, but it’s the lessons and analysis from the private investigator that seemed to be the most profound.
My only silly complaint about the book is that I would have loved to have read more about Evie after everything was revealed. Did she confess? Did she feel remorse for her “misunderstanding” and heinous actions? Has she ever injured anyone else? I know we hear about her troubled past but I wanted to know more!
Asisde from that, the mystery makes this book a page turner and it was a definitely a fun read!