Are you really my daughter?
Good as Gone has been sitting on my shelf since I received it in my October 2016 Book of the Month box. I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but I decided to give it a shot. I’m still in a bit of a reading slump with all that’s been going on, so an easy thriller sounded like a nice change of pace.
The story captivated me almost immediately, but lost me as it went on. It started out from the mom’s perspective, and she described how she lost her oldest daughter, Julie. She was kidnapped at knife point one night as her younger daughter, Jane, watched her older sister leave, terrified and hiding in her closet, too afraid to scream. Eight years pass, and we find out the family has all but fallen apart from the loss of Julie. Jane is rebelling at the farthest away college she could find, and there is a palpable distance between the parents. Just as their sitting down for dinner upon Jane’s return from college, Julie arrives on the door step… hallelujah?
We spend the rest of the book wondering if Julie is who she says she is. She looks similar, but her mom doesn’t really remember her eye color. And why is Julie referring to her parents as “Tom and Anna”? Why can’t Julie recall the shared memories between her and her sister? What about the dead body that was recovered eight years ago? In every chapter, we experience the story from the mother’s point of view, and then another girl takes over the narrative for the last half of the chapter. This is where Gentry lost me. In the end, it all comes together, but trying to piece together all of the different names that Gentry used (Julie, Vi, Charlotte, Starr, Mercy, Esther, etc.) feels like wading through mud.
The two perspectives are what give the story the depth and drama needed to question reality, but I feel it could have been written better. It took me a while to figure out what exactly she was trying to do, but when I did it became predictable. The ending lost me, as I felt it became too preachy. I’m not sure if Gentry was trying to praise religion or if she was satirizing it, but either way it made me feel uncomfortable. This was Gentry’s debut novel, and overall I would have to say she did okay. I would definitely pick up another book by her and would be interested to see how her writing style develops.
“It plays to man’s fear of the unknown.”
I picked up Bird Box by Josh Malerman because it was described as a “psychological thriller”. I have to say, I was not disappointed. I have a strong background in psychology and recently received my Bachelor’s degree in it. I’m not pretending that I can read your mind or diagnose you, but I do have a good understanding of the human psyche. A lot of that is thanks to Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational which is explains why humans are so dang weird in our decision making.
Bird Box is your typical dystopian novel. The world’s ending, people are dying, but there’s no known cure because the malady itself is unknown, but if you see it…you’re dead. To be honest, I would have gotten bored with this plot line without Malerman’s impeccable ability to tell a compelling story. The story follows Malorie, and the chapters jump between three different time periods. He builds suspense as we follow Malorie attempting to escape to a sanctuary in present-day, but in the past she was trying to protect her housemates from the outside. The rest is guesswork. Why did she finally decide to go outside? What happened to her housemates? Who gave her directions to this sanctuary…and judging by the breadth of this plague, is there even a safe place left?
Malerman really plays up to man’s fear of the unknown in this story. Every day tasks that would seem mundane such as walking through the backyard are terrifyingly suspenseful because if one of the housemates catches a glimpse of whatever is out there, they may be driven to deadly violence. This means, everyone stays blindfolded. No matter what. Even the children are trained to wake up with their eyes closed. With your eyes closed, what feels like a threat approaching could really be a deer grazing in the yard.
The book keeps you in suspense until the very end, and the last chapter feels kind of underwhelming. You spend 30+ chapters wondering what’s outside, why are people reacting this way, etc. but it’s never really explained. I appreciate a novel that leaves you guessing and wanting more (i.e. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood), and I think that’s what Malerman was going for, but it feels unfinished…especially after the gruesome scene involving Malorie and Olympia.
I would recommend this book as a decent thriller, but I don’t think this is one that will leave a lasting impression on me. Maybe a movie would be more exciting?