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The Truth About Parallel Lines


The Truth About Parallel Lines

We all have experienced this sensation when talking to a friend we rarely keep in touch with. After a few minutes, the conversation seems to pick up exactly where it left off, often, years ago. We know time has passed. We might have physically changed. Our lives have certainly changed. Everything is different. We intellectually know that. But some spark of friendship, love or shared past is still lighting a fire between us that never died out. We realize we have been travelling parallel lines through life. What is important is that those lines intersect at some point.

Jill D. Block wisely starts her first novel with an epigraph by Pearl S. Buck: “In this unbelievable universe in which we live, there are no absolutes. Even parallel lines, reaching into infinity, meet somewhere yonder.” Indeed they do. THE TRUTH ABOUT PARALLEL LINES does not read like a first novel. It reads like exactly what it is: an accomplished work of fiction written by a super-talented writer.

Talk about a royal literary pedigree. If her last name sounds familiar, it is because Jill D. Block is the daughter of Lawrence Block. If America has a reigning master of the mystery genre, nobody comes closer than Block. He has written who knows how many books, most likely well over 100 since Eisenhower called The White House home. In the years since, he has proven himself to be one of the greatest mystery writers who ever lived. His name ranks equal to those of Hammett, Chandler, Cain, Gardner, MacDonald, Westlake and Hunter. Read enough of Mr. Block’s work, and you begin to see that while he is a great genre writer, he is also something else. He is one of the greatest fiction writers ever produced by America.

"THE TRUTH ABOUT PARALLEL LINES does not read like a first novel. It reads like exactly what it is: an accomplished work of fiction written by a super-talented writer."

This could be a literary death sentence for his child. Decades ago, sportswriters called every 17-year-old with a pretty swing the next Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. Eventually the writers stopped when it became apparent that the label put an overwhelming burden on the young player, sure to doom his career long before it reached the front doors of the Hall of Fame.

Mr. Block read some of his daughter’s short stories when she was in college, and it became clear to him that she had what it took to make a living as a writer. Then he did the smart thing as a parent and got out of the way. Jill decided to go to Brooklyn Law School. Eventually, she became partner in a global law firm and has enjoyed a successful three-decade career practicing law.

But if you are named Block, writing never totally leaves your blood. In 2015, she published her first short story in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Since then, she placed stories in Australia and the three fiction anthologies edited by her father: DARK CITY LIGHTS, IN SUNLIGHT OR IN SHADOW and ALIVE IN SHAPE AND COLOR.

The first mistake a reader might make coming to this novel is thinking, because of the Block brand, that this is a mystery story. And while Block has proven she is accomplished in the mystery field, THE TRUTH ABOUT PARALLEL LINES is mainstream fiction. And excellent mainstream fiction. This might be her first novel, but it is certainly not her last. It would not surprise if her fiction writing career comes to equal and exceed her law career in longevity.

How can you not read a novel that starts with this first line: “‘Holy shit? You’re having sex with Mr. Peanut?’” Beth asked, just a little too loud, leaning forward in her chair. “‘Get out of here.’”

Three girlfriends, who share the same birthday, meet for their first legal drink in 1981. Block follows them and assorted family members in episodes spanning the years until 2012. We see them in times of love and loss, tragedy and triumph. An author of less talent than Block would soon get lost in the high grass of passing time. But not only does she keep you turning the pages, you are taken into their circle and want to see what has happened since we last got together.

And, another sign of a talented writer, Block makes us care about these people. They are real. Like us, they meet in restaurants to discuss the most serious topics during meals. Jenna, Chloe and Deirdre are not just cardboard figures waiting to race on stage and deliver their lines. They are fleshed-out three-dimensional characters. It is apparent they are living lives, not performances.

Jenna is the writer of the group. She has a secret to reveal. She says, “It was like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet. There was sex and romance, and secrets and lies, and love and betrayal, and the potential, in equal parts, for heartbreak and happily ever after. It was funny and it was sad.”

In other words, it was life. And like life, it contains fear and doubt. In September 2012, Jenna says, “Beth said I need to stop expecting Matt to let me down, to leave me. That he is not my dad, and he is not John. And plus, she reminded me, we got over that a long time ago, right? I guess. But does anyone ever really get over anything?”

Hell of a question. I guess for most of us, the best we can expect is to get up and survive and keep moving down those parallel lines, waiting for them to intersect somewhere.

Jill D. Block is a serious novelist. I look forward to her second book and all that follow.

Reviewed by Tom Callahan on June 8, 2018

The Truth About Parallel Lines
by Jill D. Block

  • Publication Date: May 19, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • ISBN-10: 1718687656
  • ISBN-13: 9781718687653