VIATICUM by Natelle Fitzgerald


Email this review


An exploration of the unlikely connection between two restless people.

Annika Torrey has had a fascinating life. She was born into a devoutly religious community, broke with them to work as a firefighter, and eventually left that life behind to move to Seattle with the man she loved. When that relationship ended, it left her emotionally devastated; years later, as the novel opens, she discovers that she’s terminally ill and cashes in on her life insurance through a “viatical settlement,” in which a third party purchases her policy and receives the full amount once she dies—which sets the plot in motion. Her cancer goes into remission, and she moves to a small coastal community and opens a cafe there, still seeking her place in the world. Unfortunately, Annika isn’t the only central character in this novel: There’s also Matt Campbell, a realtor and family man in desperate financial straits. (It’s never stated explicitly, but between references to the real estate market collapsing and the rise of fracking in North Dakota, the novel seems to be set during the 2008 financial crisis.) It’s Matt who purchases Annika’s insurance policy, and he finds himself in an even worse fiscal position after she recovers. He seeks her out using a false identity, and the two find themselves romantically drawn toward each other. The whole thing is more than a little melodramatic, and a prologue in which Matt weeps while repeating Annika’s name after comforting a terminally ill man suggests where all of this is headed from early on. That lack of surprises along with an overly padded denouement, keeps the novel from ever taking off.

Fitzgerald deals with grand themes of mortality and redemption, but her book is undermined by a predictable plot.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-988098-87-6
Page count: 244pp
Publisher: Now or Never Publishing Company
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2019