The reader is introduced to Suze Branch, a devoted and somewhat downtrodden wife, who discovers that there is more to her husband’s chronic illnesses than merely poor health or bad luck. Through her eyes, we learn more about her husband, John, whom she first met while working as doctor’s assistant. Her medical background has become extremely necessary during their ten year marriage as John never seems to fully recover from his various ailments.
The writing, although in first-person (I usually prefer third-person), is outstanding. There is absolutely the right mix of description and dialogue, conflict and resolution. One scene, which especially stood out, was the introduction of this doomed couple’s home. It made me recall the old gothic estates where Poe or Hawthorne set their works. This is a modern thriller, but the foundations of this story are firmly set in traditional horror.
“Besides the main house and set farther back was a four-car garage, the domain of Old Pete, the Branch’s aging groundskeeper. Next in line was small two-story, all brick with white trim to match the mansion. This was the guesthouse. At the very end of the gravel drive was the old servants’ quarters, identical to the guesthouse, though smaller and not as meticulously kept as the rest of the estate. John said when he was a boy, he called the main house the mother duck. The two small houses were her ducklings. We lived in the ugly duckling.”
These characters and this relationship will haunt me. As a reader, you will find yourself dwelling upon the nature of sickness and how addiction or codependency may motivate a person to self-destruction. It was a fast-paced and enjoyable read.
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