Release Date: March 21, 1995
Length: 369 pages
Source: borrowed from the library
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leaving Time, The Storyteller, and Nineteen Minutes…
To the outside world, they seem to have it all. Cassie Barrett, a renowned anthropologist, and Alex Rivers, one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, met on the set of a motion picture in Africa. They shared childhood tales, toasted the future, and declared their love in a fairy-tale wedding. But when they return to California, something alters the picture of their perfect marriage. A frightening pattern is taking shape—a cycle of hurt, denial, and promises, thinly veiled by glamour. Torn between fear and something that resembles love, Cassie wrestles with questions she never dreamed she would face: How can she leave? Then again, how can she stay?
This is the first non-YA book I’ve read in awhile and the first one that’s being reviewed here on the blog. With that said, it’s a bit different from what I typically read but it was definitely an enjoyable read nonetheless.
Trigger warning for abuse and death.
Based on the blurb, I was expecting a story about Cassie and Alex’s abusive relationship/marriage and Cassie’s struggle to leave him. That definitely makes up a huge part of this, but there were some elements that I wasn’t expecting. They weren’t necessarily negative – just unexpected. For example, the book starts off with Cassie waking up at a church having no idea who she is or how she got there. She suffered a head injury and, as a result, has amnesia. For the first 100 pages, she slowly remembers pieces of her life and then once she remembers the abuse she suffered at Alex’s hands, Picoult writes a large section where we see their relationship from when they first met to when the injury that caused her amnesia occurs. I wasn’t expecting the amnesia but I thought it was pretty interesting regardless. I’m not sure it was really necessary, but it gave an interesting twist to a story about domestic violence.
As I’ve already kind of mentioned, this book is sectioned. It has three sections: 1993, 1989-1993, and 1993 again. The sections that are just 1993 are present day in the book and the section for 1989-1993 is where we get to see how Alex and Cassie met, what their relationship has been like from the beginning to now, etc. You really get to see why Cassie fell in love with him and therefore why it’s so hard for her to leave. I really liked that we got to see that their relationship was not always terrible and abusive. I’ll admit, even I was fooled by Alex’s charm at times despite knowing that he would end up abusing Cassie. I find that a lot of books that deal with abuse tend to paint a totally negative picture, but that’s usually not how things really play out. If there was never anything positive and the relationship was abusive from day one, few people would stay in an abusive relationship for as long as they do.
I really liked how Picoult incorporated Cassie’s career as a biological (or physical, as it is called in the book) anthropologist into the story. I’m minoring in anthropology and my interest is 99% in biological anthropology rather than cultural, so I loved seeing little pieces of that thrown into the story.
I also really appreciated that there were Native Americans who were not only present, but who were portrayed pretty positively and not mocked or anything like that. It was so refreshing to see Native characters who weren’t there to laugh at or to be the “bad guys.” I’m not Native, so I can’t say whether or not the representation was accurate though. I’d love to hear what Native readers have thought about the representation in this book.
The writing could be a bit dense at times and I found myself going back to reread some paragraphs to get a better grasp of what was going on. I’m wondering though if maybe that’s just because I’m used to reading young adult which is usually a bit easier to read.
Overall this was a good book that I’m glad I picked up. It deals with a difficult but important topic and does so in a way that really shows the complexity of the situation. If you like Picoult’s writing, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one as well and if you like books that deal with tough issues like domestic violence, then you should give this one a chance.