I was absolutely delighted when I won an advance readers’ copy (ARC) of The Expats by Chris Pavone in a giveaway. I had been seeing lots of pre-publication buzz about it and had a feeling it was going to be a very interesting novel. What I didn’t realize was the kind of instant hit it would become. It made the major bestseller lists almost as soon as it was published, and I understand there may be a movie deal in the works. And I’m paying it forward so one lucky reader will win an ARC!
Katherine “Kate” Moore has just agreed to quit her Washington, DC job so her husband, Dexter, can accept an extremely lucrative computer security consulting position with an undisclosed international bank in Luxembourg. They’ve always wanted to live in Europe and this looks like the opportunity they’ve been waiting for. Kate’s not sure how she’s going to feel about not working and being a full-time mom, but she’s daydreamed about leaving her career and spending more time with their two young sons. It looks like her dreams of being a full-time mom and living in Europe are both coming true at once.
“’Okay, I’ll bite: why would we move to Luxembourg?’
‘To make a lot of money, and travel around Europe all the time.’ And there it was, the full, unrestrained smile. ‘Just like we always dreamed.’ The open look of a man who harbored no secrets, and didn’t admit the possibility that other people did. This was what Katherine valued above all else in her husband.”
The only catch is that Dexter needs to report to work asap. He promises that once this initial crunch is over, he’ll be working much shorter hours and they can travel on holiday with the kids all over Europe if they like. After all, companies always seem to expect everyone to be able to turn their lives upside down on a dime to start new jobs. At least they’re paying very generously for the move, and Europeans do get a lot more holidays than Americans. Kate’s sold on the idea and envisions having a normal family life with both parents at home at night with the kids and lots of fun holiday trips. Sounds wonderful.
Kate goes through countless exit interviews for her job, all while getting the kids adjusted to the big move, organizing what they can get rid of, packing what they’ll need immediately in lots of huge luggage and supervising the crating of what can be shipped by boat to arrive later. The whole process is exhausting but she keeps telling herself it will be worth it once they’re settled.
“Katherine has seen them many times, at international airports, with their mountains of cheap luggage, their faces merging worry with bewilderment with exhaustion, their children slumped…Now she was one of them…Behind her was a pile of eight oversized mismatched suitcases. She’d seen such gigantic suitcases before in her life, and had thought, Who in their right mind would ever buy such unmanageable, hideous luggage? Now she knew the answer: someone who needs to pack absolutely everything, all at once.”
Kate has a knack for languages, which she hopes will help but she’s really only fluent in Spanish thanks to her work. Somehow she doesn’t think Spanish is going to come in very handy in Luxembourg, and she’s right. She’s also not prepared for the expat life or life as a full-time mom. When they first arrive, she’s run ragged by all the details of getting their lives settled and getting the boys set up in school.
Then comes the day when she realizes she doesn’t know anyone, she can’t speak the native language, and she can’t even read the street signs or talk to shopkeepers who don’t speak English. She’s stuck doing play dates, house cleaning, trying to keep her children entertained instead of working with adults on important issues, and washing an endless stream of laundry loads. Oh, and then she gets to rinse and repeat, forever it seems. Dexter is working ungodly hours despite his promises. He’s almost never at home. So much for a more refined work schedule and lots of family time. It’s definitely not the expat life she imagined. Suddenly she feels very lonely, bored, and marginalized.
“It was dreary, and she was alone again, back from another Wednesday afternoon in the windowless basement at Kockelscheuer, talking about bikini waxes. She used to be a person who did things. Not just run-of-the-mill job things…Now she was folding laundry. Could her life really have become this?”
To make matters worse, Kate has a very big secret that’s eating away at her; one she’s kept from Dexter the entire time she’s known him. Now would probably be a great time to reveal it but for some reason she just can’t. How can she explain never having revealed it before? What will Dexter do if she tells him? She can’t risk it, not now when things are going so well for him and when she’s given up everything to do this with him.
Among the other expats Kate meets is Julia, who’s just moved to Luxembourg with her husband Bill. Julia seems even lonelier than Kate because she doesn’t have kids to take up a lot of her time while her husband is working, so the two of them become friends. Bill and Dexter also seem to hit it off and are soon playing tennis together regularly. Kate’s not too sure how she feels about that. Dexter is a really good guy through and through but Bill is a womanizer and a bit of a jerk who doesn’t even bother to hide his philandering. Poor Julia!
The bottom line is that although Kate’s glad to have someone to spend time with, it doesn’t take long for her to realize there’s something about Julia and Bill that seems really off. As little things begin to add up, she becomes even more suspicious and starts to do some sleuthing. She realizes they aren’t who they’re pretending to be, but who are they? Is Kate’s secret life catching up with her? Are she and Dexter or, even worse, their kids in danger? As Kate digs deeper for answers, she realizes she may uncover more than she bargained for. Will her life, her family, and/or her marriage survive?
I’ve often wondered what living as an expat would be like. I have several friends who are doing that, and it always seems so glamorous from the outside looking in. I still think it might be a fun thing to do but I don’t think I’d just jump into it the way Kate and her family did. I like Kate’s and Dexter’s characters, particularly Kate’s, although I’m not going to tell you why because that would give away her secret. No spoilers on this one – sorry.
Chris Pavone has a wonderful writing style. The Expats grabbed me immediately and I didn’t want to stop reading until I reached the end of this thrill ride. I really hope a movie is made because I’d love to see it put on the big screen! I’m being even more circumspect and evasive than usual because I don’t want to give away too much. This is one novel you’re going to want to see unfold for yourself, piece by piece, as the puzzle begins to come together. I highly recommend The Expats. It’s a very rare treat!
Chris Pavone’s April 2012 Book Tour Schedule:
4/18 – London, GB – Goldsboro Books
4/19 – Paris, FR – WH Smith
4/20 – Paris, FR – Shakespeare & Co.
4/23 – Paris, FR – American Club of Paris
4/24 – Brussels, BE – Sterling Books
4/26 – Amsterdam, NL – Waterstones
4/27- Luxembourg, LU – Ernster Books @ Cercle Munster
4/30 – Berlin, DE – Soho House Berlin
Can’t wait to read it?
The Expats was published on March 6, 2012, so it should be available from your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it.
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