2.5/5, rounding up!
Claire is just seven years old when her college-age sister, Alison, disappears while on family vacation. The Caribbean Island of Saint X is supposed to be an escape from reality for wealthy tourists, not a place of nightmares. Several days pass until the discovery of Alison’s body on remote cay. Two local men, employees of the resort that Alison was seen hanging out with, are arrested. There isn’t enough evidence to charge the men and the timeline of events is unclear. The truth of what happened to Alison is something Claire and her parents go home without.
Years later Claire is working in New York City when by chance she finds herself in a taxi being driven by one of the men accused in her sister’s death. Claire starts down an obsessive path wanting to know everything about this man in the hopes that she can gain his trust and learn the truth. How has this tragedy impacted these two lives over the years?
This is going to be a hard review for me to write because I struggled through reading this book. Perhaps this is one of those reads that I should have put aside or decided to not finish.
This story launches as almost a fictional take on a true crime event. It’s one of those stories you remember from the news or have seen on the internet. A family vacation gone incredibly wrong. I was absolutely captivated by this portion of the story and was fully invested in what had happened to Alison. As the book shifts to present day, the story takes a turn for a work of literary fiction. The book is now no longer about the mystery of what happened to Alison, but the impact of her death on her sister.
I think the main problem for me was that I walked into this book expecting a work of crime fiction and a thriller. This book really does not fit the bill for either of those. There is certainly a crime involved, but at the core this is an in-depth character study into two people who were impacted by the death of Alison. It is the story of how that tragedy changed their lives forever. I genuinely appreciate what the story actually is at its core and think the book as a whole is very well done for the right audience.
I’m certainly a fan of slower-paced books when the methodical unraveling of a story is done with intention and to benefit the reader. For me, there was a lot of material in this story that could have been cut out. There was a lot of repetitive storytelling that didn’t work for me and made me slow down how fast I could read this book or how many pages I could read in one sitting. This isn’t a book I wanted to binge read.
At the end of the day I think anyone deciding to pick up this book needs to go into it knowing that this is a work of literary fiction. They must know that the pace of this story is slow. They must know that this is not a thriller, but a character study. With the right mindset I think this story is perfect and can easily hit its mark with a reader. Overall, Schaitkin’s writing ability was fantastic and extremely impressive for a debut book. I would certainly consider picking up another book from her in the future!
Disclosure: Thank you to Celadon Books and Bookish First for sending me a free copy of this book.