A Simple Favor

What a sexy premise for this story! We have two best friends who couldn’t be more opposite, in appearance, personality, and style. One of them goes missing, the other frets and worries, and then takes over as mom and wife for the missing friend’s family, only to find out they’ve all been played, or they are all playing each other.

I wanted to like the book A Simple Favor a lot more than I actually did. I also hoped it lived up to the promise of the movie trailers, which I saw several times before reading the book. The book is a suspense/thriller with three persistently annoying main characters.

Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom/widow who is also an overachiever in everything. She has a sun shiny blog where she spouts off random bits of mom advice and worry. It’s not the type of blog I would read, and it took seven chapters before the story took the reader outside the blog to start learning who the “real Stephanie” is vs. “blog Stephanie". Emily is her best friend, a high-class egomaniac who always needs help, but doesn’t ever give it. She is the one who goes missing, after asking Stephanie to once again pick up her son from school. Sean is Emily’s husband, who while grieving terribly his wife’s disappearance, is eager to let Stephanie step in soon after her confirmed death to console him and be the wife and homemaker Emily never could be. Then the secrets start coming out. The twists and turns of the story are interesting, and kept me curious, while the ending is ultimately unsatisfying. Was it leaving room for a sequel. I’m not sure.

This is one of those rare cases where I hoped the movie was better. Emily and Stephanie are perfectly cast. Actresses Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick create something out of the characters that is more alive than what was on the page. The blog in the book is turned into a vlog (video log) which makes more sense for the movie medium. Stephanie is the do-everything parent, who signs up for all the slots for the class party, and fills her loneliness by obsessing over her son. Emily is gorgeous, and a mystery, and while she wants to be a good mom, her own past gets in the way. What is her past? That’s the big secret. When Emily goes missing, Stephanie wavers between trying to be a good friend and trying to compensate for what Emily’s family has been missing. She provides home cooked meals, care taking skills, and then quickly jumps into bed with Emily’s husband Sean after the funeral. She feels guilty, but not guilty enough.

Both the book and the movie missed a great opportunity to play up Stephanie as a suspect in the whole affair due to her jealousy. Stephanie is a single mom, who misses her husband and brother, who were both killed in a car accident. Emily has a perfect house, a dream husband, and a great kid, but rarely experiences any of it due to her job. While there are hints that Stephanie may have orchestrated everything to get what she lacks in her own life, it’s not played out.

Since the movie just came out, I won’t do any spoilers. For those that have read the book, the move ends with the punch (both literally and figuratively) that the book needed. If you liked the book, I think you’ll enjoy the movie. If you like the movie, you may not want to read the book.

Since this was the first book written by author Darcey Bell, I do look forward to what else she puts out, as I think she has promise, but may need some additional experience building more three-dimensional characters.

When I left the movie last night, I honestly thought they were a bit of a tie, in their own way, but after re-reading some of the book this morning, the movie is a clear winner for this one.