Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

Rebecca Scherm

Penguin Books

To her boss and fellow workers she’s Julie from California. Just another American girl, living quietly in France without a visa, staying under the radar in the Parisian workshop where she repairs and restores antiques.

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“A crime story with a difference . . .”

In reality she’s Grace, from the small town of Garland, Tennessee, and she’s in hiding for a crime committed over three years previous. Her husband and friends were caught, convicted and jailed for robbing a heritage museum. Grace planned the raid and profited from the distraction caused by their arrest, flying to Europe with a clean record and a valuable Audubon sketch. Now the men are out on parole, and Grace fears what may happen next. 

Grace works hard to disappear into her new life, to become Julie and escape any trace of her past. She tries to make the lie she’s living her new reality, and to forget she ever had a childhood sweetheart who became her husband, and the attraction she felt for his friend. She tries to forget all the potential she and the others had to break free of their small town in legitimate ways. Her only confidant is the androgynous Hanna, a Polish woman with her own troubling secrets. When a face from the past turns up in Paris, Grace/Julie has to come to terms with her deception and to try and salvage something worth having from the life of lies she’s been living.

In Unbecoming, Rebecca Scherm has created a literary, intricate and engrossing debut novel. A crime story with a difference, it explores identity and the nature of the face we present to the world.

Reviewer: Cindy A. Matthews