Monday, January 8, 2018
Book Review: "The Woman in the Window" by A.J. Finn
Self-destroyer, wreck your health
Destroy friends, destroy yourself
The time device of self-destruction
Light the fuse and start eruption
The Kinks, Destroyer
Reading A.J. Finn's new, much-hyped thriller, The Woman in the Window, I had lots of paranoia-related songs running through my head (including Garbage's I Think I'm Paranoid and the line from Harvey Danger's Flagpole Sitta which goes, "Paranoia, paranoia, everybody's coming to get me..."), but I felt the above lyrics by The Kinks described this book's protagonist perfectly.
Anna Fox used to be a successful child psychologist. She used to have her life togethermarriage, family, careerbut 11 months ago, a trauma left her with agoraphobia, so she's been unable to step outside of her New York City home all this time. She spends her days watching black and white movies, playing chess and learning French online, drinking too much while ignoring or doubling up on her meds, and counseling others like her in an online forum for people with agoraphobia.
She also has a bit of a photography habit, which stems mostly from her interest in watching what is going on outside her home, particularly in the homes of her neighbors. She's seen some pretty interesting things, including the recent afternoon activities of Mrs. Miller, who moved in across the street with her husband.
"Watching is like nature photography: You don't interfere with the wildlife."
When a new family, the Russells, move in directly across the park from her, Anna is quickly transfixed by them. They seem almost perfecthusband, wife, teenage son. She meets the son first and then the wife, and is amazed at how much she enjoys the wife's company. And then one night, as she watches through their windows, Anna sees something her eyes cannot believe. She knows it's something horrible, something she must alert the police about, and even provide help herself.
And that's the moment when everything turns upside down. Did Anna actually see anything, or was it a hallucination from her medicine or the old movies she has seen over and over again? What is she to believe, her eyes or those who tell her what her eyes have or haven't seen? What, and who, is real? Does she have anyone or anything to fear?
This is a taut thriller that definitely hooked me from the get-go. I had a lot of questions as I read, and wondered how Finn was going to bring everything together. While I felt like the book borrowed a lot from other thrillers and even some of the old movies Anna watched, the suspense definitely gets under your skin, and you absolutely want to fly through the book to see what the truth really is. Throughout most of the book, Anna feels like an old woman, but that's because of her condition. I had to keep reminding myself how old she really was.
I felt like the whole story took a little too much time to play outthere were only so many times I could handle Anna's drunken binges, her not being believed by those she trusted, and her intense paranoia, which pushed everyone away. But there are some great twists here, some I didn't quite see coming and one I suspected (which disappointed me), and much like many thrillers and crime novels, the perpetrator spends far too much time explaining themselves and their motivations.
I read a lot of thrillers so I tend to be really cynical about them. This is a good one, and I'd imagine this one is going to have many people eagerly turning the pages and staying up late because they can't get enough!