Goodison’s (The Jigsaw Man, 2015, etc.) second volume in the St. Augustus Chronicles centers on two half sisters who may be psychically linked.
In this family melodrama, an elderly driver strikes an 8-year-old girl named Chelsa who’s walking to school. The child becomes comatose, suffering permanent brain damage. In a classic war of wills over the welfare of their ailing daughter, Tim and Melanie Moran feud and eventually separate over a critical decision to terminate her life support. God-fearing Tim’s insistence on keeping his daughter alive prevails, but ultimately drives a wedge between him and his unscrupulous wife, who has been busy cheating on him with her boss to gain a job promotion. The couple separate, even as Melanie announces she is pregnant with a child that is not her husband’s. While Chelsa seems destined to live out the remainder of her years in a vegetative state, Melanie gives birth to a second daughter, Sienna, though the girl becomes plagued with mysterious fainting spells. Sienna’s malady confounds local Portland, Oregon, psychiatrist Rand Morrissey, who, from this early point in the swiftly paced novel, makes for an appealing hero. He anchors the plot, which develops further as hypnosis sessions find Sienna communicating through Chelsa’s disturbing memories. Meanwhile, Chelsa has been undergoing nerve stimulation treatments as a last-ditch effort to revive her brain functions, though it is Sienna who delves into her half sister’s mind and begins reenacting the violent physical abuse she endured. The varied histories of characters like Melanie and Morrissey add depth to the solidly written story. The doctor begins doggedly investigating Chelsa’s family’s past to verify the child abuse allegations stemming from Sienna’s hypnotically induced testimonies. And Melanie begins to unravel and falsely accuse the men in her life of random acts of abuse. The narrative gets even busier when Goodison incorporates arcane themes of human spiritual rebirth and the Christian theological theory of Limbo into the action, which culminates when Chelsa and Sienna are brought together in the same room. Though the psychic phenomena may be a stretch for some readers, the author does an admirable job of humanizing everything else in her rousing novel, making the entire ordeal an eerie possibility in real life.
A tightly woven medical thriller fusing justice for abuse victims with the tapped power of the mind.