A debut novel analyzes how the mind processes childhood trauma and examines its effects.
Sheila Leclaire is a successful black investment banker in spite of the hallucinatory voices she has heard since she was 6 years old. Intrusive and menacing—“You ain’t worth anything! Die!” —they leave her feeling “stalked and fearful.” One night, in a futile effort to block them out, she seeks refuge in drinking and is hospitalized for a blackout. The doctors release her with a recommendation of outpatient therapy to uncover the source of the voices. Feeling vulnerable and alone, she temporarily moves in with Jonathan, her best friend from work, who lends moral support. Sheila also has an upcoming reunion with old friends to look forward to in a couple months. Seeking answers to fill in the gaps from a childhood she can’t remember, she reaches out to her friend Valencia, who reveals a long-held secret. At age 4, Sheila wandered away from her friends and was randomly beaten unconscious by a group of local boys. Her family and friends hid this from her in an effort to protect her from lasting trauma and harm. But it’s possible that this secret may have given birth to the voices. Sheila hopes to achieve healing through therapy in time to enjoy the reunion and perhaps for her friendship with Jonathan to evolve into something more. In her energetic series opener, Foster certainly delivers an intriguing premise and addresses timely and important issues. According to the publisher’s website, she envisions Sheila’s journey as one in which the protagonist “learns to renew her mind daily if she is to reach her destiny.” But Sheila’s odyssey becomes confusing and cluttered by various story threads; a subplot about her friend Allie’s being raised by her grandmother is needlessly inserted. In addition, this short novel is sometimes padded: “I reached for my handbag. I opened the car door.” And a final time jump robs readers of any type of resolution.
A psychological tale with a messy plot.