The events leading up to the violent deaths of Alice Hayward and her sadistic husband George are told from the points of view of four characters - Reverend Drew (the pastor who baptises Alice shortly before her death), Catherine Benincasa (an investigative lawyer), Heather Laurent (an author who writes about encounters with angels, and claims to have met a few herself), and the couple's daughter Katie. Their stories unfold consecutively, rather than via alternating chapters (a technique I'm getting a bit bored with) and it was interesting to hear their differing accounts. At least two of them appear to be very unreliable narrators - or are they? The reader is never quite sure whose version of events to believe.
Heather Laurent is a slightly implausible but intriguing character - she suffered a similar tragedy in her own childhood and reaches out to Katie Hayward to try to help the traumatised girl through her grief. My opinion of Reverend Drew kept changing; alternating between hero and villain as the story unfolded. I thought I was going to enjoy Katie's narrative the least - at first she comes across as a typical American teen, peppering her speech with "like" and even "gnarly" - but her moving account of her parents' violent and abusive marriage (she describes living with her father as "waiting for the boiler to explode") draws the various strands of the plot together really well, culminating in an emotional final chapter with a fairly predictable but still satisfying 'twist' at the end.
After the slightly disappointing Skeletons at the Feast, I'd say Chris Bohjalian is back on familiar territory and thankfully back on form with this one.
on 12 September 2011
I was a sceptical reader of this book, but having heard rave reviews about it I thought I would see what it was all about. I'm so very glad I did! The story is told in Four or Five sections by different characters. Told in a fashion more like a revealing disclosure by a friend of the happenings and their part in the tale rather than just a progression of the storyline. This is well done and despite not being a huge fan of one or two of the characters I still felt compelled to read their perspective. You gained a deeper insight to their characters, felt the conflicting perceptions on what occured, and indeed discovered more about their flaws and beliefs. A few reviewers claim there is this sudden twist to the story, I'm not sure that is entirely true as I had guessed the ending quiet early on. However, this did not make the book any less enjoyable a read, indeed it heightened the sense of condemnation that can exist in such situations. Definitely worth reading.
on 8 May 2013
Chris Bohjalian is a gripping storyteller, so I always have to read to the end, expecting a twist or revelation. I was therefore disappointed that this story panned out just as I had expected it too, without spoiling it for other readers, there was no revelation for me. The psychology of all the characters was interesting and it raised valid questions about domestic abuse, but was a little symplistic,especially in the portrayal of Alice, I feel that I would have liked to have heard her voice.