A harrowing psychological and paranormal novel of a marriage in crisis.
Oliver Richter loves his wife, Kai, who’s beautiful, compassionate and sexy—and she has the ability to telepathically communicate with other people. The power makes her unable to function normally, particularly when she does Social Services work with abused children, as she can hear and feel their pain and fear. (Kai’s brother, Caleb, is a “dreamwalker” who can enter the dreams of anyone he chooses.) Oliver picks up on Kai’s thoughts, and as a result, he shares her insomnia, nightmares and suicidal fantasies. When Kai doesn’t improve after her time in a mental institution, Oliver kidnaps her and brings her from New York to Butternut, Wis., his quiet hometown, where he plans to fix up his grandfather’s house and come to terms with long-buried, agonizing truths about his family. As Oliver and Kai settle in, Oliver’s old flame, Mickey, shows up and causes a rift in the already delicate marriage. But when Mickey’s gifted son, Lukas, disappears, Kai must use her telepathic powers to track him down, putting her in more danger than ever. Heintz’s debut weaves psychological insight into a suspenseful, sci-fi–tinged thriller and produces a welcome variation on the classic marriage drama. Although the pacing in the book’s first three-quarters might have benefited from a stronger edit, the last quarter’s climax provides a satisfying payoff. Unfortunately, the book includes many overwrought metaphors and similes (food “ricocheted back up my esophagus”; “bullet trains of thought fired at me”; sneakers “chewed up dirt and rocks”; “grief crushed my trachea,” and more). Readers might allow for a handful of poetic flourishes, but such language can become cloying.
An imaginative, if sometimes linguistically distracting, look at the consequences of extrasensory powers.