What’s it all about?:
Once, Alex Gardinier was a successful physical therapist and a happy wife. Now she is trapped in a crumbling hospital room. Seven years ago Alex’s ex-husband, Nathan, was convicted of murdering five girls, and he has been rotting in prison ever since. Except the doctors say that Nathan isn’t in prison. In fact, they don’t believe that he is a criminal at all. According to them, Nathan is a devoted husband who visits her every week. But Alex can’t recall ever seeing him at the hospital, and the last time they met he was holding her hostage on a boat.
Maybe the doctors are right – maybe these memories of his crimes are her own personal delusions – but if they are wrong, then Nathan somehow escaped from prison. If they are wrong, he has trapped Alex in a psychiatric ward.
If they are wrong, he is hunting her sister.
What did I think?:
First of all, a huge thank you to the author Kristen Twardowski for getting in touch with me, asking me if I’d like to read her novel and providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. I’ve got to say, I’m being very strict about which review copies I’m accepting at the moment as I have a huge backlog but after reading the synopsis of Kristen’s novel, I simply couldn’t resist. This book is a fascinating and very promising debut that is not only thrilling but intensely disturbing at points.
You want unreliable narrators? You have them in the form of main character Alex Gardinier who has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital by her loving husband, Nathan for her own safety. Alex has been placed on strong medicated and is undergoing paranoia, delusions and hallucinations but there is one thing she is certain of. She is demonstrably not mad, should not be institutionalised and her husband is dangerous. However, because of the language barrier and the Portuguese hospital staff’s beliefs that she is insane she cannot convince them that she is telling the truth.
At first, I thought this was going to be a novel all about Alex and the terrible situation she found herself in and I was delighted to discover that with each new chapter came a new, fresh point of view from another female character that is in some (sometimes tenuous way) connected to Alex or her husband, Nathan. We hear from Lucia, a Portuguese nurse at the hospital, Alex’s sister Carolyn who has always been suspicious of Nathan ever since their early relationship and a woman called Sandra Jackson who is the mother of a missing woman and is desperate to find out what happened to her daughter.
I don’t really want to say too much about the plot but it all comes together beautifully to form a fascinating portrait of a troubled marriage, horrific events and psychological distress that was gripping and compelling to read. I loved how we got to hear from a number of different women who were all written so perfectly that I could instantly picture each one in my mind’s eye and appreciate their individual voice. It’s a convoluted plot introducing many potential heroines and villains but one I highly enjoyed untangling and I predict great things in the future for Kristen Twardowski.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):