This is a hard book for me to rate because it was fascinating and compelling but I didn’t like it.
Alicia Berenson hasn’t spoken since she murdered her husband six years earlier. To outsiders, they seemed to have a perfect marriage. She was a beautiful, successful painter, and he was a handsome, famous photographer. They were madly in love. So why did she shoot him in the face 5 times?
Theo Faber has recently joined the Grove as its new psychotherapist. Part of why he took the job was to meet Alicia and help her speak again.
Most of the book is told from Theo’s perspective. We learn a lot about his childhood, marriage, and his emotional baggage. Alicia’s diary entries from before the murder are interspersed with Theo’s narrative.
I found Alicia to be a fascinating character. She’s slowly revealed to us through her diary, her interactions at the hospital, and stories related by family, friends, and hospital staff. As events play out it brings up the questions: Are the events of her diary true or is she mentally ill? Her friends and family describe her as sweet and loving or cruel and manipulative. Who is right? Who is reliable?
My problem with the book was Theo. I wanted to know more about Alicia but Theo was the focus. I have two problems with this. I found him to be a very unlikeable character. I like complex characters, but I found it difficult to relate to him and be sympathetic with his character. My bigger problem was that I’m tired of women’s stories being told as a means to further a male character’s development. I wanted to know Alicia’s story, and while we sort of get it, I don’t feel like I ever got to know Alicia and truly hear her voice. She was just the lens through which we view Theo. I’ve no doubt that was Michaelides’s intention, but that’s not how the book is marketed and that’s not why I read the book. So I was unsatisfied.