This is a story about a girl named Catherine Bailey, told in two timelines, bouncing between a “before” and “after.” Pour you a glass of red, we’re jumping in!
Before, Catherine was your typical fun-loving young adult…she loves clubbing with her friends, nursing hangovers with a Bloody Mary, and looking for hot guys. Enter the handsome, mysterious, and a touch overprotective Lee. However, as the relationship progresses, Lee becomes increasingly violent and obsessive. None of her friends believe her, so as she becomes more and more afraid, she plots to find a way to escape.
After, Catherine (now Cathy) is struggling from severe OCD, panic attacks, and absolute terror from the events of “before.” Lee is behind bars, but she still sees his face everywhere she goes, which keeps her holed up in her apartment most of the time. Enter Stuart, her new neighbor that picks up on her OCD tendencies and wants to help her move on and develop some sort of normalcy in her new life (and if that new life includes a romantic rendezvous with him? Well, he wouldn’t hate it). Everything is slowly starting to improve…until Cathy gets the phone call that Lee is being released from prison.
The story bounces between flashbacks and present day (eventually tying together), which was a bit confusing at first, but after the first few flashes, it seems to “click” and is easily understandable. Also, a quick trigger warning: this very explicitly depicts rape and domestic abuse, specifically the graphic descriptions of Cathy’s abuse at the hands of Lee. If these topics bother you, I would definitely avoid reading this.
A quick history on this novel: this is Elizabeth Haynes’ debut novel and it actually started off as a project for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where people dedicate their Novembers to writing a novel composed of 50,000+ words. How cool is that?! If I’m being totally honest, I had no idea that NaNoWriMo was a thing until I went in my local library and saw several books on display, either for having been conceived during the program or for helping aspiring writers to work on their craft. So, I glanced at the back cover, was intrigued by the premise, and decided to give it a shot!
If you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you know that I love a thriller (especially of the psychological variety), and this one definitely did not disappoint. Usually, the story can be extremely predictable, but this one kept me guessing. Just like Cathy, I was seeing everyone as an extension of Lee and kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. The suspense steadily builds, creating the sense of dread readers of thrillers have grown to love. I literally kept expecting to hear that everyone in her life was secretly part of the
A-Team Lee-Team because I was just so on edge until the end (TBH, I’m still kind of feeling it). It was fabulous.
One thing that I especially appreciated was how Haynes showcased the psychological damage of abusive relationships. So many times, the story will end when the woman manages to get away. What happens next? We know better than to think it will have a fairy tale, happily ever after ending. Just as the trauma has the reader reeling, the one that is actually afflicted by the traumatizing events would obviously have more than their fair share of aftershocks.
My one complaint is that (not really a spoiler, but just in case you’re warned I’m going to say something incredibly vague about the ending) Cathy at the end of the book isn’t quite consistent with her character development. Also, there were a few moments that everything tied together too nicely, which is always a peeve of mine, but fortunately I was able to look beyond that and enjoy the ride!
In short, if you like psychological thrillers, read this book! K, thanks 🙂