THINNER SKIN by Billie Jean Diersen


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In Diersen’s (Unmatched, 2012) drama, a Marine wife’s animosity toward an insolent, chauvinistic sergeant is matched only by her growing fondness for the man’s fiancee.

Jackie’s husband, Sgt. Kevin Thompson, introduces her to Katrine, soon to be part of the Marine Corps family via her marriage to Sgt. Rob Copeland. Right away, Jackie doesn’t like Rob; at a party, he humiliates Katrine for not wanting to play a board game and initiates unwanted physical contact with Jackie. Her liberal views are constantly at odds with Rob’s conservatism, yet her relationship with Katrine flourishes, and soon the new acquaintances are much more than mere friends. It’s only a matter of time before possessive Rob learns that the women have become lovers, and because a prologue teases that someone’s been killed, things aren’t likely to turn out well. Diersen’s novel features a complex protagonist who’s reticent and standoffish, but she’s actually pushing people away for reasons that are eventually revealed to both herself and readers. Despite her self-described “defective filter,” the opinionated Jackie isn’t especially offensive in any of her stances. She’s also quite charming: For Halloween, she dresses as an amnesiac and, in response to Kevin’s question of what they should call her, wryly says, “That’s a good question.” Jackie engages in numerous political discussions throughout the story, but the ones with Rob are eventually redundant, simply confirming what’s already been well established—that he’s sexist and insulting. The book tackles several serious issues, including abusive relationships (even if the abuse isn’t always physical) and neglectful parents. But Diersen keeps the story light with dark humor, most notably an abundance of jokes about murder, like Jackie telling her friend Lyn that she doesn’t want to see Rob dead but would prefer it over seeing him alive. Jackie does seem to be testing her marriage in the story, but her scenes with Kevin are some of the book’s best; the couple’s ebullient banter, even when talking about the volatile Rob, is irresistible fun.

An earnest, candid portrayal of a woman who learns just as much about herself as she does of others.

Pub Date: July 11th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0692201138
Page count: 450pp
Publisher: Blue Gentian Books
Program: Kirkus Indie
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