In The Blue Pen, Lisa Rusczyk explores an unlikely relationship with a chance beginning that ultimately leads to significant personal revelations. Parker is a star journalist, relentless in his pursuit of a story. Cleo is a middle-aged homeless women who happens to appear one morning in the backseat of Parker's car. Something Cleo says spurs Parker to find her--and her story. But Cleo's story is more unusual than Parker could have ever anticipated.
In most books that revolve around two characters locked in a head-to-head encounter, be it hostile or friendly, one character is more fleshed out and shines brighter than the other. In The Blue Pen, where Parker and Cleo make up the story's dichotomy, Cleo becomes the foreground figure as Parker provides the background necessary for the story to unfold. The reader gets glimpses into Parker's work and personal life, as well as some sense of his personal taste, but I found Parker to be the conduit for Cleo's story rather than a significant player in it.
And indeed, the heart of the story for me and what really kept me turning the pages was Cleo's story and how Rusczyk portrayed it. Cleo's ending point is clear from the first two pages--she is a homeless drunk--but as Cleo tells Parker the beginning of her story, she reveals a canyon between her ending and her beginning. From beginning to end, Cleo's life takes sharp turns, and I was always anxious to see what would be around the next corner.
I found Cleo's story and the development of her character to be where the merit and interest of The Blue Pen lie. I genuinely felt for Cleo, and more importantly, I was desperate to see where her story ended. Rusczyk is an extremely talented storyteller; she knows how to hook and pull along the reader, to give him enough of a taste so that he wants more. More authors should be this way.
However, Rusczyk's writing is not without flaws. There are places in the book where I feel the phrasing is inelegant as compared to the whole, and this occurs often enough to have become a minor distraction to me. Specifically I am referring to passages describing bodily functions or foul odors; these sections are not superfluous to the story, but I felt that the presentation caused me to feel offense toward to the wrong things. Similarly, but less bothersome, I felt Rusczyk relied on similes quite a bit, and that these similes were sometimes rather clunky. In contract, her straightforward passages conveyed the same amount of information in a more artful manner.
I certainly don't wish to overstate either of these shortcomings. Believe me, I would not have lasted ten pages if I thought Rusczyk's writing were not generally good. But every author has room for improvement, and these are areas that I hope Rusczyk will focus on; I sense that she has the writing talent to match her storytelling ability.
In short, The Blue Pen is an extremely enjoyable and well-told read, and I would particularly recommend it to those readers who enjoy suspense novels but are looking for something with a bit of a unique twist. Beyond that, anyone looking for a great gather-round-the-campfire story can definitely find it here!