Review: Burying Leo by Helga Gruendler-Schierloh

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Whether it’s singing, dancing, painting, or something else, an artistic talent is such a terrible thing to waste. Michigan writer Helga Gruendler-Schierloh’s Burying Leo is a novel written for those who have sacrificed their talents for the people they chose to marry, who have lost their identities after years of seeing to the needs of their spouses, and who finally come to a point in their lives where they realize that they have two very different ideas of what their lives should be like and decide to do something about it.

To an onlooker, Ingrid Bassen might just be the type of wife that an over ambitious businessman like Joe Bassen needs to charm potential financial backers, but there is another side of her that loves writing songs, singing, and wants to be a mother to children of her own and not just Joe’s. She carries with her a horrible secret: the reason why she is not able to have children. When it comes to her singing, a new identity could help her do what she’s always loved doing. Singing under the name Rita, Ingrid begins an all new life that her husband doesn’t know about, but to completely rid herself of a horrible past experience she must find a way to teach a serial rapist a lesson he’ll never forget.

Like a skillful painter, the author chooses her words well when it comes to describing her settings and I always found myself reading many of the setting descriptions over and over again; there is no denying that the author is brilliant in that area of fiction writing. The best example of this amazing talent of the author’s would be the following: “Drinks in hand, exquisitely dressed business people mingled with a colorful variety of stylishly coiffed fun-seekers—deep in conversation, laughing, or scanning their surroundings in search of a catch-of-the-day.”

Ingrid Bassen, her husband’s wild card when it comes to fishing out the big bucks from other wealthy men, is no doubt an attractive woman. The author reveals this best through the reactions of a heavy pocketed gentlemen named John Winslow. Of German stock, she is a woman who knows all about making compromises to survive. We meet her when her life has become a “confusing maze of suppressed emotional turmoil, stale suburban domesticity, and the barren routine of almost distasteful business dealings.”

Joe Bassen is the type of man who bleeds ambition. A young entrepreneurial man might look up to him, but really, he is a selfish, uncaring, money hungry chap who could care less about whatever troubles Ingrid might find herself having. As long as she looks good enough to make people give him their money, it’s all good. He views aristocracy as all that is success, enjoys being a vulgar human being at times, and dreams about being at the very top. Mitch, the man Ingrid falls for after adopting a new identity, calls their marriage a “match made in a bank.”

In Augsburg, Germany, Ingrid had a totally different life which ended not long after a night club owner did the unthinkable to her. There, as Ingrid Mellner, her first relationship ended when a young man named Toni disappointed her by making love to another girl. Older and married to Joe, Ingrid returns to Augsburg for a short stay due to her father’s illness that allows us to get a better understanding of who Ingrid is as her own person. The Toni we meet is a bit on the annoying side, but not so unlikable as Joe. Toni has a love for dancing. Joe, not so much. They are two very different men, but both of them possess qualities that one could say Ingrid doesn’t like.

The author deserves merit for her ability to make her protagonist have both good and bad qualities, making readers follow a realistic female lead throughout. The same can be said for all the support characters. Like Mitch, for instance. Having experienced a personal tragedy, he tries to do what he can to help someone else because of the guilt he feels for still being alive and fine, making Ingrid’s problems with her husband look really small in comparison. It was fun seeing Ingrid dishing out a bit of revenge close to the end and I liked that it didn’t involve anything like physically hurting that old enemy of hers. The author thus showed how time eventually gives people what they want.

Ingrid’s love for music and her talent for writing amazing songs becomes clear during the time she spends with Mick. Whereas Joe would be too bored and uninterested to read any of his wife’s lyrics, Mick would find himself unable to compose a quick tune to go along with one of the songs Ingrid has written. She has fun with Mick. Not the bedroom kind of fun, but the friend kind. Appealing male specimen as he is, Ingrid will have a hard time becoming more than just a friend to Mick.

Joe hardly talks about his kids, so when I learned he has not one, but two children of his own, I was surprised because when I first met him, there was no way that I could see him as a dad. Joe, meanwhile, is a class-A money grabber that readers will want to punch real hard in the face for the stuff he does and says, but Ingrid, in her own way as well, is not exactly innocent. Their marriage is truly a match made in a bank because really, why they are married to each other boggles the readers’ mind. Joe does not change and for a good portion of the book Ingrid shows no real signs of a solid desire to end the marriage.

Helga Gruendler-Schierloh writes a charmingly enigmatic novel that shines a spotlight on marriages gone awry, hard to acquire soulmates, and breaking free from the grip of traumatic experiences. Readers who are looking for a novel with more of a realistic plot revolving around an unhappy wife looking to make it in the world without the help of her egocentric husband won’t be disappointed. It’s a strong four from me for the rating.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Laurel Highlands Publishing
Date Published: September 7, 2017
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Pages: 348
View on Amazon

Published by Frank Frisson

Living in Cape Town, South Africa. People often tell me that I should get out more, but I'd rather read my brains out.

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