A woman wrestles with the haunting specter of her rape in this sequel.
Lannis Parker, a successful pilot, was brutally raped by Robert Davis, a sadistic repeat offender. The sting of the trauma drives her to seek refuge in the oblivion of alcohol and to conceal the attack from even her closest friends and family out of shame. With the encouragement of her fiance, Ben Martin, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, she presses charges against Davis and has him arrested. Davis decides to defend himself in court and uses the process to intimidate Lannis; the account the author provides of Davis’ cross-examination of Lannis is chillingly cringe-inducing. Despite Lannis’ significant personal progress—she joins Alcoholics Anonymous and quits drinking and works hard to open up about her suppressed feelings of helplessness and self-contempt—she still struggles to move past the emotional fallout of the assault. She surprisingly decides that the only route to peace is to be found through the humanization of her attacker—she needs to learn to understand, forgive, and even love the monster who gleefully robbed her of her serenity: “There’s nothing new to talk about. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to. Journaling, the little exercises she gave me, taking care of myself. But I sense what needs doing now is more spiritual, like God is asking me to go somewhere else with the experience.” This is the second installment in the Appalachian Foothill series but is intended to be a stand-alone volume, readable independent of its predecessor. Lynch (Christmas Grace, 2015) deftly unpacks the heavy emotional freight rape victims shoulder, although in some scenes she makes her point too heavy-handedly. For example, Lannis’ mother reacts incredulously to her daughter’s disclosure that she was raped, a reflex that strikes a false note. In addition, the story swarms with subplots, which prove distracting. The author’s depiction of Davis’ psychological disfigurement is as unflinching as it is disturbing, though the more monstrously he is drawn, the less plausible Lannis’ attempts to love him seem. The book’s central virtue is the subtle parsing of the deepest wound rape inflicts—the insidious transformation of the victim into an accomplice in her own violation and the bottomless ignominy that generates. Lynch’s second novel is worth reading for that alone.
An often unsettling but ultimately profound meditation on the depth of psychological suffering after a sexual assault and the potential for healing.