TV Netflix Series Pieces of Her vs Audiobook Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter
Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
After having listened to the audiobook that I then learned would be a Netflix original, I patiently waited for this one to debut, which it did on Friday, March 4. Again, I’m flummoxed by the difference between the original story and the Netflix series.
So if it’s well-received as a book title or audiobook, did it also translate well to the small screen? If you’ve caught a few of my previous audiobooks versus Netflix series, you’ll note my continued bewilderment. Is this actually better? Or worse. A radical departure from the Virgin River while a faithful reproduction of Longmire. (And I really loved the characters on Longmire.)
As you’ve no doubt read or heard by now, Pieces of Her is the story of a daughter who is just discovering that her mother hasn’t always been the person she thought was her mom.
Pieces of Her the Netflix thriller was developed by Charlotte Stoudt and Lesli Linka Glatter. The director for all episodes (and there are eight in the first series) is Minkie Spiro who directed Downton Abbey and Better Call Saul and while I’ve not watched the former, a solid fan of the latter, so I was excited.
Pieces of Her (in the co?) leading role is Toni Collette as Laura Oliver with Bella Heathcote as Andy Oliver (her daughter). There are a number of other actors, of course, my favorites being Omari Hardwick as Gordon Oliver and Gil Birmingham as Charlie Bass. There is a lineup of actors portraying Laura as a child and as an adolescent.
The series is adapted from the novel (same name) by Karin Slaughter who is also acting as a producer on the show.
Andy (Andrea) is celebrating a 30s birthday out with her mother, Laura, in beautiful coastal Belle Isle when the quiet serene atmosphere suddenly turns tragic. While Andy freezes in horror, Laura springs to action in the protection of her daughter and is soon forced to make a deadly decision.
That split-second automatic reaction to the situation changes their lives immediately and forever.
Laura is hurt but following triage medical attention clams up and refuses to speak to anyone; not to the police, her ex (Gordan), or to Andy. To Andy, however, she barks quick instructions to speak to no one and leave. She is handed some money, a burner phone, and car keys but no explanation. YAY! So far, so good.
Well, but Andy hasn’t been doing so well with her life though; aimless, living off her mother’s generosity in her mother’s garage apartment. So I’m not sure how she can be trusted to follow the instructions.
And she doesn’t.
But now, is it just me? Or did the Netflix version veer into it’s own interpretation? The constant flashbacks crippled somewhat the timeline from Laura’s childhood to the present situation, introduction of all the backstories, new characters and twists that spins wildly with 70s US history. Indeed, at times spun completely out of coherence, forcing the viewer to catch up and make connections in later scenes.
While Toni Collette (Laura) made a heroic effort at portraying a horrific history and her effort at escape, her wretched persona got a bit tiresome. Andy, what can I say about poor, dear Andy; not the brightest daughter ever to be delivered from a pseudo-protest child.
The number-one international best-selling author returns with an electrifying novel of devastating secrets and hidden lives that probes the fraught relationship between daughters and mothers and the lengths we go to protect those we love.
What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all? Andrea Cooper knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows Laura has spent nearly her whole life in the small beach town of Belle Isle, Georgia; she knows Laura’s never wanted anything more than to lead a quiet, normal life in this conventional community; she knows Laura’s a kind and beloved speech pathologist who helps others; she knows Laura’s never kept a secret in her life. Andrea knows that Laura is everything she isn’t – confident, settled, sure of herself. Feeling listless, with no direction, Andrea, unlike Laura, struggles to find her way.
But Andrea’s certainty is upended when a visit to the mall is shattered by an act of horrifying violence that reveals a completely different side of Laura – a cool woman who calmly faces down a murderer. It turns out that before Andrea’s mother was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly 30 years she’s been hiding from the woman she once was, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.
The assailant was a mentally troubled, teenaged scion of Georgia law enforcement royalty, and now the police want answers about what really happened in those terrifying moments at the mall. Though she’s being scrutinized at every level of the criminal justice system and her innocence is on the line, Laura refuses to speak to anyone, including her own daughter. She pushes Andrea away, insisting it’s time for her to stand alone and make a life for herself. To save her mother, Andrea embarks on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. Andrea knows that if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for her mother…or her.
Filled with intriguing turns, surprising revelations, and a compelling cast of characters, Pieces of Her is Slaughter’s most electrifying, provocative, and suspenseful novel yet.
Okay, by now the well-plotted storyline has been laid out more than once. When Andy witnesses her mother in action, she is both stunned by her actions and also suffering from the disastrous circumstances that forced her mother’s reaction. She is not capable of applying what she knows about her mother with the person who so deftly ended the appalling scene. It’s shocking.
I was hooked by those opening scenes, narrated well by Kathleen Early. I quickly compared many of the headlines of the 70s to the circumstances dibbled out in little dabs, building the tension and whipping the listener from mother to daughter. As the old saying goes, make no conclusions until all the facts are disclosed, but mercy, that could be sooo slow sometimes.
Mainly told in Andy’s POV, there are the backstories, flashbacks revealing another tiny morsel of truth. Or was it the truth? Who can you trust?
The truth, the reveal, when it finally came, came as a knowing relief and combined several theories in the complex plot meant to throw the reader/listener off.
The setting is beautiful, the characters’ depths varied, most not wholly sympathic, the dialogue often blue. I listened to False Witness last year, my introduction to the author and her graphic writing style, but had to try one more. Perhaps I’ll try one in her signature series next time, rather than a standalone thriller.
While I enjoyed the book, the tension, drama, and thrill of discovery, there were times when I lost all faith in Andy, finding her making questionable decisions more than once. I had too early formed an opinion of the circumstances, having lived through those years and headlines, and was shocked at the jaw-dropping reveal when it came. Still, I questioned some of Laura’s early handling of Andy and wondered how that might have been better.
The Netflix series, usually following their well-received formula, took a slightly different tack this time, throwing in Andy’s quick romantic interest (not unusual), but making a hash of the flashbacks. They generally work to create an equitable R-rated series, but missed building the tension this time like the book did.
This time my vote has to go to the author’s book—and it’s been out for some time–and can be found at your favorite retail outlet.
Genre: Women Sleuth Mysteries, Police Procedural Mysteries
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Listening Length: 16 hrs 5 mins
Narrator: Kathleen Early
Audible Release: August 21, 2018
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Pieces of Her [Amazon]
The Author: Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 120 countries with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her 21 novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated COP TOWN and the instant NYT bestselling stand-alone novels PRETTY GIRLS, THE GOOD DAUGHTER, and PIECES OF HER. Slaughter is the founder of the Save the Libraries project—a nonprofit organization established to support libraries and library programming. A native of Georgia, she lives in Atlanta. Her stand-alone novel PIECES OF HER is in development with Netflix, starring Toni Collette, and the Grant County and Will Trent series are in development for television.
©2022 V Williams
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Actress photos: Looper.com