Review: Low by Mary Elizabeth

Reviewed by Joanna

I read modern day Bonnie and Clyde on the story blurb and jumped right on this… this romance? Romantic fiction? I’m leaning toward the latter as by the time we meet Low and Poe (Lowen and Poesy) they’re a well-established couple who are doomed to be separated by his going to jail for theft and assault.

Where I enjoyed parts of the story, we don’t actually see the falling in love, and I think that would’ve made a huge difference to how I rated this book.

Let me start over. First and foremost, this is a tale of a young couple, deeply in love, who end up becoming criminals. Low starts off at a disadvantage in life. His father is a murderer and long-time prisoner. His family are poor as dirt and he does everything he can to put food on the table for his mother and younger sister. One of his jobs is to mow lawns for wealthy families, and this is where he met Poe. She’s the daughter of middle class people and fell for the bad boy.

But Low gets fed up of working hard for little return, and he’s really done with having frozen burritos for dinner. He decides to steal food from a store. He gets caught, but does the store owner vicious damage with the brass knuckles he carries. Cue a four-year jail term for this nasty piece of work.

When he finally gets out, Poe is still waiting. She’s worked hard and mostly given up school to afford an apartment for them, and for a while Low tried to go straight but life as an ex-con is really hard. No work, and restitution to pay means their living situation quickly deteriorates.

Low learned a few interesting things in jail. Like how to rob a bank. And Poe is more than willing to help him. So begins their slide into delinquency.

The story is told from Low’s perspective and he’s got a poetic mind. He’s sort of likeable, but then does awful things like badly beating another man. And all the stealing, obviously.

Despite robbing two banks, and because we can’t find adequate work, my girl and I are stuck in the gutter with no way out. We’re drowning in a sea of scarceness.

Poe calls him boy or inmate which was cute for banter, but I never felt like I knew her, and I never felt the strength of her love beyond her absolute refusal to ever leave Low’s side. Which brings me back to my first point—if we’d had seen them meeting and falling in love, this probably would have been different.

The writing is good and chock full of description, and the tension was great. Bank robbery seems kind of exciting, and I could sense their addiction beyond their needs. The build up to the robberies was nerve wracking and I was on the edge of my seat. I read this on a train journey and at the point a conductor tapped me on my shoulder to get my ticket, I jumped like a shifty fugitive.

Overall it’s a slow slide through poverty into criminality with a long road trip and lots of near misses. It isn’t all bleak, but it definitely isn’t a bed of roses. The love between the couple was strong, though told rather than seen at first, and I just felt sad that, though they were put into a bad position, they did enough stupid things that they couldn’t change their path. The impression I got when I put the book down was of a kind of beauty to the inevitability of their lifestyle, and of how their love transcended that.

Rating: C

Click to purchase: Amazon

Low
by Mary Elizabeth
Release Date: January 4, 2016

 

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