Elliot, who suffers from severe anxiety, must face his fear of the outside world when his mother goes missing in a Christmas Eve snowstorm in Yorkshire.
Suspensefully told from multiple perspectives, and jumping back and forth in the narrative timeline, the text gradually reveals the seemingly innocent circumstances that lead to the day’s disturbing events. A mix-up with Elliot’s medication requires his mother to leave him home alone after Elliot’s aunt, who’d agreed to bring the correct pills from the pharmacy, is conspicuously late and unreachable by phone. His harrowing journey into the snowstorm toward his aunt’s house—the last place his mother was headed—is interwoven with a bank robbery by two men in Santa costumes. Elliot’s specific condition is never explicitly named, but his naïve narration, which includes descriptions of prior doctor’s appointments and imagined conversations with his twin sister, who died an hour after being born, provides readers with additional context. However, this open-ended approach to portraying mental illness risks pathologizing Elliot further as he struggles to navigate encounters with other people en route to his aunt’s house. Elliot and his mother are white.
At times frustratingly elliptical, the narrative inexorably draws characters toward one another—and into a surprising, explosive climax. (Psychological thriller. 12-18)