Book reviews, Women's Fiction

Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely

3/5 starsProcessed with VSCO with m5 preset

Last year I borrowed my daughter’s cell phone and when I went to text her and her sister something, her text app was open to a text that said:

It’s not my fault that your life sucks and you aren’t pretty and no boys like you.  If I were you, I would just end it all.

I stood there in the checkout area of Costco, emotion running through me, letting people just go around me and in front of me in line.  I couldn’t move.  Someone came over to ask if I was ok.  I couldn’t speak.  I just nodded and moved out of the way and scrolled back through the texts, feeling slightly guilty for invading my daughter’s privacy, but knowing it was warranted.  I kept scrolling and reading.  My daughter repeatedly asked this other person to leave her alone and the person ridiculed her.  My daughter told this person she needed a break from them and this person mocked her.  It wasn’t all bad, there were some pleasant exchanges.  But there were enough exchanges where this other person criticized, ridiculed, held themselves above my daughter and said very hurtful, demeaning things and ultimately suggested my daughter end her life.

When I picked my daughter up, I told her that I had seen the texts and that was not how friends treat each other.  When we got home, we discussed it as a family.  My husband started reading the texts but was so upset by them that he couldn’t go on.  We discussed how to handle it.  Our daughter wanted nothing else to do with this person and it was decided to distance ourselves from this group of people, as other hurtful things had happened to us in that group.

Over time, we healed.  We discussed toxic relationships.  We discussed self care.  We worked on being mindful in our relationships with others and focused on how we felt around different people.  More than what we wear or what we look like, people will remember how they feel around us and we want them to feel good…we thought about how to do this.  We worked on ourselves.  A lot.

A year later we are better people for the experience.

Last fall, when this was going on, I thought about the stories I had read online about cyber-bullying, about teen suicide as a result of cyber-bullying.  I knew that I had seen there was novel based on one of these cases, but I never took the time to look into what the novel was called and order it.  When Saving Phoebe Murrow came up on Netgalley, I decided that I wanted to read it and write a post, especially as a new school year is starting and I know there are kids who will be facing situations like this and maybe one of their parents will read this post and this review and feel understood or get some ideas of how another family handled bullying.  The one thing is: we homeschool, so my daughter didn’t have to see this person every day.  In fact, they never had to see them again.

My Review:

Saving Phoebe Murrow is about a girl who is befriended on Facebook by a flirtatious boy named Shane, who goes to a neighboring high school.  When Phoebe goes to an underage party where parent-sanctioned alcohol is served, her mother finds out and calls the police and the parents that own the house, as well as a lot of the kids in attendance, get into trouble.  Shane tells Phoebe he never wants to see her again because he found out it was her mother that called the police.  Phoebe is treated like a pariah at school and eventually decides to slit her wrists in a bathtub.  Her mother, Isabel blames herself.

What this book is ultimately about is the mother who allowed the alcohol to be served at her house.  Sandy is screwed up.  It doesn’t say it in the book, but she seems to be mentally ill.  When she was a teenager, she seduced her stepfather and her own mother kicked her out.  She now devotes a lot of time and energy to pleasing her spoiled daughter Jessie and that is why she allowed the alcohol to be served.  Sandy uses sex to get things she wants, she has a very skewed sense of right and wrong and no real moral compass.  She is an awful person.

In all honesty, I found the writing to be unsophisticated and not enough focused on the actual bullying and suicide attempt, but rather on Sandy and how screwed up she is.  I had high hopes that this book would show how a fictional family helped their child through a bullying situation, but it fell short.  It was more of a twisty thriller than a book about teen bullying and suicide.


8 thoughts on “Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely”

  1. Have you ever thought about writing your own book? The passage about you standing in Costco had me gripping my phone, and I was waiting to see if it was a real story or an excerpt from the book!

    I hope I’m not being dismissive of the terrible experience your daughter and your family had. But stories about bullying need to be told – and as you noted in your review, this book (and many others) misses the mark. Plus, I think you have a real knack for the written word!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are not belittling it at all, Robbie. I actually have thought about writing. I just never follow through. Maybe someday. But thank you so very much for the compliment! You made my day!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad you saw your daughter’s texts and that she was willing to discuss the bullying with you and your husband. It is so important for teens to know that we are there for them and are not judging them. It is such an important issue right now and it is something that authors should write about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. It is a big issue now. I wish more adult authors would write about it because I think it would help parents to see they are not alone in this. I think I was more upset about the texts than my daughter was. How dare someone say that to my child?


    1. I am glad you thought it would be about bullying too because I started to think that maybe I mis-read the description. I am interested to see what you think of it.


  3. I can understand how bullying would be an issue with you. I am glad things worked and your daughter was open to discuss it with you. You would definitely be one who would be able to determine how realistic a book on bullying would be. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

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