Book Talk: 'The Girl Who Lived'
Pretend you’re Faith, a 22-year-old woman who saw the murderer three weeks ago. Not the one who the police have identified, but the rat-faced man who only you know to have been the killer. You try to chase him down in a stolen truck; you have a 2.1 blood alcohol level, and the cops have thrown you into the looney bin.
How do you handle being the survivor of a multiple homicide, committed by your father who then blows his brains out? Add to that question the fact that you were on your way to your 14th birthday party with your sister Kim at the time. Also, your best friend Anna and her mother are there at the family cabin when you arrive. Now top that with the fact that your father had been having an affair with your best friend’s mother. Today is the eighth anniversary of the event, you’re on suicide watch in a “mental hospital,” and yet another cop wants to question you.
The cop asks, “Do you agree with the Marshfield PD’s findings?”
“That my father killed his lover and her kid, who happened to be my best friend, and then stabbed my sister to death before he shot himself in the head? No. No, I don’t agree with those findings. They’re garbage.”
During the years since the mass murder/suicide, Faith’s life has been a living hell, soaked in alcohol and survivor’s guilt. Everything about the tragic event is hazy, except for the rat-faced man whom Faith saw at the cabin. Faith’s mother handles her own mental problems by writing The Girl Who Lived, a memoir which recounts the murders, suicide, and Faith’s struggles during the aftermath.
Faith’s mother’s book is published and becomes a best seller, and Faith is recognized wherever she goes. She’s finally free from the hospital, but she’s under the watchful eyes of her probation officer, mother, and sponsor for her twelve-step recovery program. Yet, she is determined to track down Rat Face and prove that her father was not the killer.
Christopher Greyson, the author of this psychological thriller as well as at least nine others, is new to me. His previous books featured Jack Stratton, a police officer who was raised in a house of ill repute by a mother who was a prostitute. Obviously, Greyson has a knack for creating characters with many flaws, but they are aware of them and manage to function in spite of their limitations.
In The Girl Who Lived (2017, 318 pages), Faith can turn on her “Hannibal Lecter craziness,” while rationally sizing up the situation around her. She can be insightful and fully grounded at the same time that she distrusts everyone. She can be brave when she has to be, and she can retreat when that’s the most reasonable course of action.
This novel is filled with complex characters and puzzling twists. The writing is well paced so that you’ll want to keep turning the pages.
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Jim Glynn may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.