A Balm in Gilead by Marie Green McKeon

A Balm in Gilead

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In this debut novel, McKeon traces a young woman’s post-traumatic stress disorder.

After being raped on her Pennsylvania college campus, Quinn Carlisle testifies at her attacker’s trial. Although he’s convicted, he’s mysteriously set free. Sometimes, Carlisle tells her tale to anyone who will listen; at other times, she can’t bring herself to talk about it, even with a girl who was recently raped herself. She thinks that her guilt and anxiety are under control for nearly a decade; one day, however, she leaves her boyfriend to strike out on her own. In her new apartment in Maryland, she meets Joe Armstrong, a helpful man who will go on to play a pivotal role in her life. The trauma continues to haunt her, however, until the murder of a woman in another state forces her to again confront her assailant and her own fragile psyche. While watching the news one night, Carlisle sees a story about a woman found murdered in a state park. She has the same word carved in her arm (“NOTHING”) as Carlisle’s assailant carved into hers. At the same time, she receives an ominous phone call that could well be Dennis Price, the man who raped her. Armstrong convinces her to go to the police, but when they seem disinterested, he and Carlisle start playing detective themselves. This well-plotted tale, written in a seemingly effortless style, initially seems to be a chronicle of Carlisle’s PTSD, but it slowly blossoms into a complex crime drama with an array of fascinating characters. McKeon alternates between the 1987 rape and the late ’90s, slowly fleshing out the incident and the details of Carlisle’s current life. She then introduces more characters that Carlisle doesn’t know. A man named Billy O’Brien, for instance, is shown drinking himself to death in a sleazy hotel room when he learns that the case of his brother’s murder is being reopened because the judge was found to be on the take; before long, his life intertwines with Carlisle’s. This fine novel will keep readers guessing—even about the good guys’ motives.

Fans of crime fiction, mysteries and psychological thrillers will love this tightly written portrayal of PTSD and redemption.
Pub Date: July 13th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0990433828
Page count: 326pp
Publisher: White Bird Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2014


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