I didn’t expect this book to blow my mind, so I had a good time reading it. It was pretty fucked up, in that what-the-hell-is-going-on sort of way. That made me read it super fast, and I was completely absorbed the whole time. But when the reveal finally happened, it just felt really clichéd the way it played out.
This book is about Anna Fox, a former child psychologist, now agoraphobic shut-in, who hasn’t left her house in ten months (almost eleven), and who spends her time watching her neighbors and cataloguing their every move through her Nikon camera and its Opteka lens, playing chess online, and counseling her fellow shut-ins on an agoraphobia message board. She is also an alcoholic, and is heavily medicated. She is a very unreliable narrator. So when she witnesses her new neighbor, a woman she has met twice, get stabbed in her own home, nobody believes her, and she begins to question her own sanity.
This sounds like a great premise, and I actually thought it was really well done for the first two thirds or so. The prose wasn’t standard, it felt very much like we were actually in Anna’s head. I didn’t care for her very much, but I felt for her when things she believed had happened were completely dismissed because of her mental state and her personal history. This is a book that very much knows its roots are growing in the field that classic thrillers like Rear Window and Gaslight (the book’s most obvious influences) have sown. Anna is a film buff and spends a lot of time watching old movies and drinking wine, which she mixes with her many medications (big no-no).
My main issues with the book are two: 1) That the way the book played out felt very rushed and was ultimately very unsatisfying. I didn’t think enough time or emotional effort on the part of the author was spent on the ending, and ultimately what came across was a clichéd and empty answer to the mystery, which entirely subsumes Anna’s emotional arc (and she does have one).
And, 2) It just seemed like the book thought it would be soooooo shocking to have it be the way it ended up. I hate it when thrillers rest their entire narrative on a twist like that, so that if the twist doesn’t work for you, the whole book falls apart. The twist should be the feature, not the centerpiece. At least I didn’t call two of the main twists, so at least that’s good. But with a little more finesse, even those clichéd things that happened could still have worked. But he rushed through it. I also could have done without the alcohol angle entirely. It felt way too much like The Girl on the Train, and her medication alone could have sufficed for the author’s purposes. Authors: Your emotionally complex unreliable narrator does not need to be an alcoholic, please take note.
I did really like reading a book about someone with agoraphobia. That was the most interesting part to me, and I wish that had been explored a lot more, or at least more attention paid to it at the end.
CBR Bingo: Cover Art (Review a book you picked for the cover.)
I love this cover. Especially in person. The texture and shininess appeals to me greatly. Plus, Rear Window is one of my favorite movies, and this cover is such a clear homage to it, and the colors immediately drew my eye. Plus it was on sale at Costco so I bought it.