THE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION
A Novel by Paulette Alden
After raising her son as a single parent, Inga Daudelin, reserved and steady, has accepted her somewhat lonely, quiet life, until she is blind-sided when her son is accused of the murders of four young women. Unable to believe that Ben could be guilty, Inga is forced to reconsider her choices in life and whether she has missed important things about Ben, who has always passed as normal. At the same time, Jean, a pregnant naïf who seems both simple and wise, “imprints” on Inga at the library in Tacoma where they work, drawing Inga into an unusual friendship. When Ben kidnaps Jean, Inga and the lead detective, Ron O’Loughlin, with whom she is falling in love, search for the two, who have landed in San Francisco in a hippie house (the novel is set in the late 60s), where, along with the baby, they make a strange but human family.
The Answer to Your Question explores how well we’re able to know those we love, why our deepest attachments are not always the predictable ones, and the mystery of why we do the things we do.
“This wonderful novel is a success at every level—an engrossing thriller and a nuanced examination of love—written with artful directness. I loved every word and could not put it down.”
To read PDF files of Chapter One and Two, click here to download (PDF, 875 KB).
366 reviews, 66% of them five stars — Praise from Readers’ Reviews on Amazon:
“Read it in one sitting. Excellent character development, interesting plot that grabs you so you care about what is going to happen to good people going through heartbreaking situations.”
“Riveting! Wonderful book with well-drawn characters. Sure didn’t see that ending coming! I will be looking for another book by Ms. Alden soon.”
“I loved this book! It starts with Inga being told by local police that her son Ben is suspected in four murders. During this time, Inga befriends Jean, a young woman who works at the library with her, and they form a relationship that helps them both make it through the tough times that Ben’s situation brings.
I cannot imagine how Inga or Jean must have felt going through what they did throughout this novel, but the author did a really great job making it realistic. Throughout the novel, both characters fight with themselves over whether or not they believe that Ben is capable of murder, and he does what he can to create shadows of doubt for each character. Jean becomes a pillar of strength for Inga, someone she can rely on and a sort of pseudo-daughter to Inga. I was really happy that they found each other because they definitely needed each other.
And Ben was a well-created character. He seems so charming and sweet half the time, but the other half it is easy to see the violence that he has in him. He is a smooth-talker and an attractive guy that makes it easy to see why women would have trusted him in the first place. He is also quite crafty at evading the police, which reinforces the feeling that he may have actually been the murderer, although there is always that seed of doubt.
I really cannot say enough good things about this book. I was hooked and could not read it fast enough. I would definitely read this one again, and I definitely recommend it!”
“For me this was one of those rare “might as well try it – it’s cheap” buys that turned out to be an absolute gem. It’s probably the second best book I’ve read in the past twelve months, and at a rate of at least 5 books a week it had a lot of competition. I read it in one overnight sitting – to the detriment of my day job!
I’d say the most outstanding thing about the book is the way Alden subtly wraps your head and heart around all her characters – from the most minor, who appear only in passing, to the main three – and that’s an art form mastered by only the very best of writers, and it’s what I look for and long for in any book I read, whatever the genre. Her writing flows effortlessly and gracefully, never getting in the way of the story. The plot itself holds no great surprises – but it involves you to the last nonetheless. I hated to put the finished book down.
Go ahead and buy it … for a couple of dollars you’ll have something that will live with you for a long, long time.”
The Answer to Your Question is a great book. I couldn’t put it down. The author draws you in and keeps you wondering about what will happen next. I read it straight through – took about 8 or 9 hours but they flew by!
“Tho this book is very different from all other mysteries I have read I have to applaud this author for a job incredibly well done. I very much enjoyed getting to know and love each and every one of the characters as if I knew them personally. I really didn’t want the end to come so soon. That’s the ONLY negative I have about it, darn, THE END. I will absolutely read more books by this author. You’re truly a gifted writer. Thank you for sharing your gift. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
“I felt this was a story about connections, about the complexity of the choices we make, about unlikely bonds being formed or longstanding bonds being broken or fractured or renewed, about the questions we would probably never want to ask ourselves in the light of day. I enjoyed Paulette Alden’s novel immensely, both for its dramatic/thrilling/romantic plot as well as for its beautifully rendered prose.
Prose such as:
“Wasn’t it funny–silly, really–how we expected things to make sense. To understand things. We wanted answers to our questions, when in reality we were surrounded by mysteries too deep to ever fathom. We rowed the little boats of our lives out across a deep, cold, dangerous ocean, pretending that we were going to make it to shore.”
It’s written from two first person points of view: Igna Daudelin (46) and Jean Parker (17), both employed at a Tacoma library. They are hit with very different crises (in particular, Igna’s 25 year old son, Ben, is accused of killing four women) at about the same time. To say much more would only spoil the plot.
Jean has always had a lot of respect for Igna and they do share a certain connection that Igna herself cannot fully explain. They are an unlikely pair in many ways as Jean seems more attached to Igna than the reverse. It is a connection I felt drawn to for this very reason. I wondered if they would be able to help each other, maybe course a path together, or would their very different backgrounds pull them apart, ultimately take them down diverging paths?
There are other gripping/unexpected relationships too. For example, in the story of Ben, how he interacts with his mother and other characters, kept this reader on his toes. This is not a story about this suspect or that suspect, this cliché or that; Ben is subtly drawn and very much his own character as he responds in his particular way to those around him.
The questions that came to mind: Why do we do the things we do? And when things go terribly wrong, how do we go about explaining them to ourselves? Should we even try? Is it the wars? Is it desires? Is it neglect? Are some things just set and done at birth? What would we do if someone we cared for was accused of doing something horrific? And what if the people who are supposed to love us don’t and others who do love us are gone through no fault of their own? The novel sets us off on these paths, asks us to consider the complexities of human behavior… with Igna and Jean.”
“To put it simply, The Answer to Your Question, grabbed hold and wouldn’t let go. For starters, there were the sympathetic and complicated characters, but it also took hold because, like any old-fashioned page-turning sap, I really wanted to know what would happen next. I especially loved the way Ben kept turning up in places that shouldn’t have been unexpected but were. And the conversation between Ben and his mother when he talks about imagining why the killer might’ve killed seemed incredibly potent and deft and, well, heartbreaking, which is saying something because sympathy for a killer doesn’t come easy. I’d been worrying about that moment–or one like it–when it seemed to me the author had to face this capacity of his head on, and when she executed it so beautifully I just found myself sitting there marveling. And of course some part of my brain knew that all that target practice of Inga’s meant that she was going to have to shoot at somebody, but I was still surprised at the way it played out.”
“I made the mistake of opening Paulette Bates Alden’s novel as soon as it arrived from Amazon, and there I was—pinioned on my sofa until I could arrive at the wrenching, but edgily hopeful, conclusion. I admire how she is not afraid to let her readers sort out their feelings afterwards. Her narrative (I won’t give spoilers) has irresistible propulsion, but this is not simply a plot-driven mystery. Alden manages to write with sympathy and a marvelous delicacy about a wide range of human behavior that can be terrifying, passionate, and surprising, sometimes all of those together. She illuminates the insoluble mysteries underlying our lives and loves. Her prose . . .is clear, unobtrusively poetic, and polished to a gleam.”
“This book is a marvelous combination of suspense and character development. I couldn’t put it down—stayed up til the wee hours of the morning to finish it. The ending is complex, yet satisfying. I highly recommend it.”
“Without question a page-turner, The Answer to Your Question offers something beyond mind-numbing entertainment. Like all good art, its themes mirror real life. Alden cleverly weaves many unanswerable but fundamental questions into her gripping and subtly-crafted text: Why do otherwise ‘normal’ children sometimes grow up to become murderers? Where do we draw the line between familial loyalty and moral obligation to those around us? When are we justified in taking life? By the end I was so absorbed by these stubborn-if-secondary topics, I no longer craved the “Answer” implicitly promised by the novel’s title . . . To the one truly important question—whether the book is a worthwhile read, my answer is a resounding YES!”
“This little gem of a novel sucks you in and holds you hostage—not unlike the characters within the stomach knotting storyline. It’s a page turner—suspenseful, gritty, real. The characters are exceptionally rendered, layer by layer by layer, and you end up caring about each one in the every-twisting plot.”
“This is a fascinating novel. The tension never goes slack. I read it in three sittings, unwilling to drag myself away. At first I savored each sentence because of the marvelous images and sentences. Towards the end, I just raced headlong, wanting only to know what happened next. Jean, Inga, and Ben had become characters I cared about. I wanted to know which of them would live and which would die, and if those who remained alive would be okay or forever devastated.”