To the Power of Three tells the story of Kat, Perri and Josie, childhood best friends. One June morning, one of the three brings a gun to school, shoots two of the girls (one fatally) and then herself. The novel then begins to unravel the story of what would have caused this horrible act of violence.
Lippman is an accomplished writer. In some ways, her work reminds me of Carol Goodman. Lippman’s characters were complicated and well drawn – even minor characters have interior lives, hopes and fears. We come to understand these three girls and share their bond through the years of their friendship, but we only come to understand what caused one of the girls to take such drastic measures at the novel’s conclusion.
For me, that was the novel’s weakness. The book’s over 400 pages long – too long, perhaps, for such a mediocre resolution. As a reader, we’ve invested a great deal in these characters (and their parents and peripheral friends) that it’s a let down to discover what actually happened on that fateful day – and why it happened. (After giving this more thought, I think the reason why the ending didn’t work for me is because it gives one of the characters a moral compass that – while not exactly coming out of nowhere – doesn’t seem earned either.)
To the Power of Three wasn’t a page-turner in the way that some mysteries are. Perhaps that balancing act is hard to achieve: literature and suspense; a well-written story that you speed through because you can’t bear not to know whodunit. For my money, no one manages that sort of book better than Thomas H. Cook. Still, Lippman’s skills are apparent and I’d certainly read her again. In fact, I have What the Dead Know waiting on my tbr shelf.