This was another Kindle impulse when I was going through needing psychological thriller mysteries. I guess I was going through a phase on wanting a book that would linger with me and make me think a lot.
Synopsis (as appears on the Amazon Kindle Store) is as follows:
Elle is a survivor. She’s managed to piece together a solid life from a childhood of broken memories and fairy tales her mom told her to explain away the bad dreams. But weekly visits to her mother still fill Ellie with a paralyzing fear she can’t explain. It’s just another of so many unanswered questions she grew up with in a family estranged by silence and secrets.
Elle’s world turns upside down when she receives a deathbed request from her grandfather, a man she was told had died years ago. Racked by grief, regrets, and a haunted conscience, he has a tale of his own to tell Elle: about her mother, an imaginary friend, and two strangers who came to the house one night and never left.
As Elle’s past unfolds, so does the truth – if she can believe it. She must face the reasons for her inexplicable dread. As dark as they are, Elle must listen…before her grandfather’s death buries the family’s secrets forever.
Ability to read – I sat down to read this on Monday evening and didn’t think I’d be finishing it just hours later. I was captivated from the first couple of pages, eager to understand the story to be told and find the truth for Elle. It was easy to get into this book and understand the plot. The book is split into the POVs of Elle and her grandfather and at first I hadn’t realised and was reading them as the same person, but I quickly realised my mistake and was able to make identifying points that kept the two POVs apart and distinguished from each other. I think I preferred the grandfather’s POV because it was smoother and more interesting, whereas Elle’s POV was more prone to suspicion and more eager to pick out the lies than see the truth.
Characterisation – I enjoyed the way the author drew on such a difficult subject and made the characters larger than life in their suffering. The theme of mental illness being hereditary is strong throughout the book and with the grandfather’s POV chapters, we see the consequences of living in denial and of loving someone so much that you become blind to their faults. In wanting to keep his wife happy, the grandfather became his own catalysis for what happened. In order to protect his wife and stop her from being taken into care, the terrible effect of losing the lives of two innocent visitors happened which had a long term effect on his daughter. The daughter grew up to suffer from identity crisis.
The daughter in turn affected her own daughter, Elle. It is clear from reading that Elle worries that she might also have the mental health issues that her Mother and Grandmother had and she uses it as an excuse not to get close to anyone and not to have children of her own. Through meeting her grandfather, the story he tells eventually sheds some light on what happened to make her mother estranged from the family. Together they are able to unravel the truth and are finally able to close the door on the past.
END OF SPOILER
Visualisation – It was easy for me to visualise both settings for this story. I could see the present clearly and visualise the characters well. I was able to see what was happening in the 50s reasonably well also and identify the characters there and the actions they took. Both worlds seemed far apart but so similar and I found myself reading in a trance, flitting between the two eras as the story unfolded before my eyes. The book is written in such a way that makes it impossible for you not to think and explore possibilities. The aspect of mental health and how raw it was presented in this story made me contemplate the characters more and want to analysis their decisions and actions. The intensity I felt while reading this boosted my visualisation and effected how I saw things.
Uniqueness – The story was complex, showing mental health issues of the mother and how it affected the daughter and surrounding family. The consequences of the father wanting to protect his wife, had a terrible effect on the life of his daughter and the two innocent visitors who came to the house. I haven’t read many books that are so focused on mental health issues. I myself have struggled with my mental health and I’ve always been very open about it and I think that influenced how I read this book and made me pay more attention to the story that was being told. It’s a difficult genre to talk about and definitely something that needs to be written right to succeed. I definitely felt for Elle a lot and for the story that had been kept hidden that left her feeling like something was missing. I enjoyed the way that the grandfather was telling the story to Elle but that it wasn’t obvious. There wasn’t a clear divide between chapters which would signal that the story was being told to Elle.
I have read a lot of reviews of this book where readers have reviewed it down because they couldn’t tell when the grandfather was telling the story. I think it it had been written like they want, as an actual story, with inserts that show Elle is listening in, it would take away from the story itself and somehow make the topic less complex and emotional. I rather liked that the grandfather telling his story was told in his POV chapters, it made the whole real a lot smoother and flowing. It linked all the chapters together and allowed me to move without being jolted out of what I was reading because of a break or divide.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book and connected to the complex genre of mental health. It was my introduction to Steena Holmes, who I hadn’t heard of before but I enjoyed this so much that I’m inclined to discover her other works.