A defining moment of violence inextricably links the lives of three young adults in Yates’ (Black Chalk, 2015) psychological thriller.
“I remember the gunshots made a wet sort of sound, phssh phssh phssh, and each time he hit her she screamed. Do the math and the whole thing probably went on for as long as 10 minutes. I just stood there and watched.” Yates’ novel begins with this visceral description that immediately establishes a complex relationship not only between Patrick, the narrator of these lines, and Matthew, his friend and the perpetrator, but also between memory and the truth. The novel cuts between a first-person narrative of Patrick at 12, documenting the events that led up to this shocking BB gun attack, and a third-person narrative of Patrick and his wife, Hannah, in 2008. As newlyweds, they are trying to find their way through the economic collapse and Patrick's loss of his job; Hannah is a reporter interested in writing a true-crime book. She is also the victim of the earlier crime, and while she knows about Patrick's connection to Matthew, she has no idea that he actually witnessed what happened and failed to stop it. Much of the book explores the ways in which they individually struggle to come to terms with and exorcise guilt before the past can destroy their present and future happiness. If this sounds complicated, it is—humanly complicated and narratively complicated—but successfully and movingly so. Yates manages to take a brutal incident and, by the end, create understanding for all three major characters involved: the victim, the perpetrator, and the witness. By doing so, he drives home the messages that truth is always subjective and that true, compassionate love is always redemptive. It’s the compassion part, he argues, at which most of us tend to fail.
Mesmerizing and impossible to put down, this novel demands full attention, full empathy, and full responsibility; in return it offers poignant insight into human fragility and resilience.