A brief but slow-reading third outing by Hepinstall (The Absence of Nectar 2001, etc.) pits maternal love against rational thought. Mom wins.
In Ohio, a distraught man named David hires a private detective to find his missing wife Martha, traumatized since a bomb went off—killing some—at their six-year-old son Duncan’s elementary school. Unbeknownst to David, Martha has arrived at an isolated desert cave in Texas where she hopes to protect Duncan from the dangers of the world. A florist, she learned about the sanctuary from one of her clients, an old man who taught her that “loved ones don’t die on their own; we let them die. We violate some rule.” Although she loves David, Martha has left him behind because he refused to accept her increased protectiveness toward Duncan and forced her to visit a psychiatrist, who sides with him. She arrives at the cave with two months’ worth of food (an unbelievable feat in itself), plenty of candles, and a John Denver CD. With incredible ease, she settles into the primitive life, spending her days fishing, teaching Duncan to read, and swimming in a lake full of blind fish. Then a handsome stranger—the detective—shows up, bearing the chocolate bars Duncan loves. He has also assumed the first name of Martha’s father, whose death in a hit-and-run accident she feels she caused by not psychically protecting him. The detective, haunted by his own dark past, gradually wins Martha’s trust but is equally seduced by the passionate sureness of her life. By now, most readers will have realized that Duncan died in the bombing and Martha has come to the desert because there no one can stop her from believing he’s still alive. When David shows up—or does he?—things get even murkier, for Martha must choose which reality—or unreality—she wants more.
The Sixth Sense meets Thelma and Louise.