Twenty years after a blood bath consumed his family, the only survivor returns to the scene of the crime in an effort to clear the roadblock of the past from his psyche.
Litta, a small island off the coast of Scotland, is a “dark hunk of rock, braced against the wind and the endless rain,” a persuasive setting for this grimly compelling tale. Here, John Baird, a contemptuous, angry man hidden beneath a veneer of controlled charm, surprised Litta’s tiny community one day by massacring his family—wife Katrina, son Nicky, and daughter Beth, everyone except his less-favored son, Tommy—and then killing himself. John’s brother, Malcolm, still lives on Litta, and it’s on his doorstep that Tommy turns up unannounced two decades later, his education, jobs, and girlfriends having failed to pull him into a future beyond the trauma of his family’s tragedy, his father’s taint, and his own pained regrets. Wait (The Followers, 2017, etc.) delivers these events in a narrative that is limpid and frill-free, in keeping with the book’s elemental setting. Delving into John’s psychology, and Malcolm’s, and their father’s before them, she paints a picture of traditional, often unpredictable, disappointed men and their low-level, slowly corrosive abuse of their wives. This generational connection serves its explanatory purpose, but another of the story’s challenging forces is Litta itself, beautiful but isolated and ceaselessly testing its inhabitants’ characters. Memory, masculinity, and survivor’s guilt are picked apart as the novel treads its path, dodging sensationalism and easy resolutions while evoking haunted, inarticulate people in a relentless landscape.
A piercing, vivid, and humane story depicting the long aftermath of extreme domestic violence.