Banting examines one woman’s descent into depression and insanity, tackling themes of bullying and mental illness in his latest. Abandoned by her father at a young age, Jess has always struggled with bullying and psychological abuse at the hands of her peers. An emotionally absent mother and a distant brother complicate the matter further. Now nearing forty, Jess is a single, lonely, and bitter woman with extreme self-respect issues. Committing her first act of arson gives Jess a feeling of power and accomplishment, but she soon becomes entangled in a college student’s kidnapping, turning a fugitive, with law enforcement at her heels. Banting visits themes of trauma, bad parenting, mental illness, jealousy, revenge, understanding, empathy, violence, family ties, friendships, and the corrosive effects of childhood bullying. The characters, particularly Jess and Brandy are utterly convincing and immediately draw the reader into their problems, from petty to grave. Many plot elements are specific to the year, and the alternating timelines and multiple point-of-view narratives keep the page turning. The novel ultimately becomes as much about a mentally deranged woman’s quest for revenge, companionship, and understanding as about bullying, trauma, and family and relationships, with Banting beautifully delivering on the complexity of mental illness and trauma. Layered and suspenseful, the novel makes for an engrossing thriller.
Categories: Suspense and Thriller