The children of famous and beloved artists face a challenge when they follow in their parents’ footsteps. When the child first arrives on the artistic scene, it’s nearly impossible not to make comparisons to the parent’s work. If, for example, your name is Nancy and your father’s name is Frank, you have a particularly large legacy looming in the background of your debut.
That’s the situation Jill D. Block finds herself in with the release of her first novel, “The Truth About Parallel Lines.” Her father is Lawrence Block, one of the most esteemed mystery and thriller writers in the business who has been successfully and prolifically plying his craft for decades.
Perhaps wisely, Jill Block hasn’t written crime fiction (though she has released a few short stories in that genre), but instead carves out her own space with a story that follows the intertwined lives of a number of women. Occasionally, a strong bit of dialogue or the structure of a scene calls her father’s writing to mind, but by and large, the younger Block finds a voice of her own.
She doesn’t always employ that voice successfully, however. The book is delivered from a number of different perspectives over a long period of time (the passage of which, the author handles deftly), and Block doesn’t always give the reader the markers needed to keep the characters straight or to remember the details of their individual stories. Only one character, Jenna, tells her own story — the other sections are delivered in a tight third-person style — and this is more jarring than helpful.
The problem may be that Block has tried to do too much. The book starts with the introduction of three close friends who happen to share a birthday, and it seems as though that set up will define the narrative. But Block delves into the lives of a number of other characters, and as a result the narrative arc is fractured.
The truth is “The Truth About Parallel Lines” has some strong moments, but the reader may feel she gets her lines crossed a bit too frequently.