Saturday, February 25, 2017

Book Review: "Behind Her Eyes" by Sarah Pinborough

Umm, seriously? What did I just read?

Sarah Pinborough's new book, Behind Her Eyes is one crazy book, one that at different times had me totally hooked, rolling my eyes, predicting (incorrectly) how the plot would be tied together, and then, ultimately, re-reading the last few chapters a few times to make sure what I thought happened actually did.

So, let's see how to review this.

"Secrets, secrets, secrets. People are filled to the brim with them if you look closely."

Louise is a single mother to a young son. She works part-time as a secretary at a psychiatry office, and for the most part, spends her evenings caring for her son and drinking a little too much wine, and at times suffers from night terrors she can't explain. She'd love to meet a new man but doesn't really want to make the effort.

Then she meets him. Smart, funny, handsome, seems completely interested in her. They spend a somewhat drunken evening in a bar, and clearly there's chemistry between the two of them. After a passionate kiss, he flees, but she feels heartened that finally, someone special took an interest in her. Then on Monday, Louise discovers that this man is David, her new boss. Oh, and he's married, to a beautiful, elegant woman. Bollocks.

Louise bravely tries to soldier on despite her disappointment and David's occasionally flirtatious nature, but she is determined not to be one of those women. One day, while walking near her office, she (literally) runs into Adele, a beautiful, lonely woman clearly in need of a friend. And then, Louise quickly realizes Adele is David's wife. Adele starts to encourage Louise on ways to improve herself—cut back on the wine, quit smoking, join a gym.

When David's interest in Louise starts to intensify, she doesn't know what to do. She definitely has feelings for David, but she likes having Adele as a friend, even under the circumstances. She knows the secrets she's keeping from each of them are wrong, but she can't break up with either of them. And it appears both of them need her, in their own ways, as much as she needs them.

If you think you know what's going to happen from here, you're probably right—and you're utterly wrong. Pinborough combines elements of your typical love triangle and the story of the marriage that no one understands with some seriously bizarre, suspend-your-disbelief plot elements. When it works, the book practically hums with finesse and intrigue, and when it doesn't work, it's one of two things—you just can't wrap your head around what is allegedly happening, or you feel the book has fallen into such stereotypical territory it annoys you.

Ultimately, why this book worked for me (despite having to suspend my disbelief) is Pinborough's storytelling. These aren't likable characters, the plot jumps back and forth between narrators and time periods, and sometimes you wonder how the characters know what's going on. But Pinborough's writing mesmerized me, and the originality she demonstrates helps the positive outweigh the negative.

This will not be a book for everyone. But if you want to go on a crazy ride with some crazy characters, pick this one up. Because when a book comes with a hashtag, #wtfthatending, you know you need to give it a try.

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