by Jennie Coughlin
Series: Exeter #1
Twenty years ago, Rick Murray left town after his father was arrested by the State Police for trying to murder Rick's best friend, Dan Reilly. Now Rick is back in Exeter. Dan must grapple with Rick's return and the memories that come with him. As childhood memories run headlong into the reality of what happened that summer, both men must adjust to the idea that things weren't as simple as they seemed back then. All That Is Necessary explores the collision between past and present, between memory and reality, and between two former friends whose lives changed one summer more than twenty years ago.
Last year I read a collection of short stories called Thrown Out: Stories from Exeter by Jennie Coughlin. My favorite was the story of two young boys who found dead bodies in a marsh outside of town and All That is Necessary takes us back to Exeter twenty years later with some of the same characters. This isn’t your typical story, there are relationships but romance isn’t the focus instead we revisit the past when it collides with the present and the effects it has on our main characters. I easily consumed this in a single afternoon and while not flawless it certainly held my attention.
Events twenty years ago forced Rick Murray to leave his hometown when his father was arrested for trying to murder Rick’s best friend Dan Reilly. Rick accepts a head coaching job and moves back to Exeter causing quite a stirrup as Dan and his friends are once again faced with the memories. The whole town is curious as to Rick’s motives for returning. The tale that unfolded gives us a closer look at those events and the impact it had on the small town. All when weaving a new situation and threat to the town of Exeter.
Coughlin gives us an array of characters and none of them are cookie cutter. Dan Reilly is a college graduate and works with his Dad as a handyman. He is also very active in the town, and with the college. He is openly gay and lives with his husband Chris. Until Rick returned he was pretty centered, but discoveries shake his inner core and we watch him struggle to understand. I liked Dan but struggled with the way he handled things in the beginning. The town is made up of old families and it’s the type of place where an outsider is an outsider unless he was born there. Rick is struggling with the events that separated him and his Dad. His Dad has refused to see him and it’s been almost twenty years. He not really sure why he is back and if he searching for closure or revenge? Dan’s family, best friend, and townies make up the cast, as well as the Irish Mob creating an interesting dynamic. I wanted to get into the characters heads a little more and while I understood them they fell a little flat at times.
Exeter is a small town in Massachusetts with a college campus but it’s also struggling in the current economy. The author does a great job of showing the diverse age groups, multiple generation families as well as the re-growth and decay of the town. We get a strong sense of the events that occurred twenty years ago and the impact it has when Rick resurfaces. Rick’s Dad and the mob was a fascinating thread that added suspense. I wanted more depth and a little less telling in this story but found all the different threads compelling. Coughlin brings up some touch social subjects; prejudices, corruption, politics, and through characters makes you see the situation from all perspectives. The author has a strong command of her story and the tale flowed smoothly, allowing me to immerse myself despite wanting more. The ending was positive and set us up for the next book, but it ended abruptly and I found it jarring. It wasn’t a cliffy, so don’t panic it just happened when I wasn’t expecting it.
If you are looking for a tale of small-town secrets, suspense and the characters who reside there then I recommend reading All That Is Necessary.