A woman’s attempt to escape her abusive husband of 10 years is thwarted by his devious ways in this interestingly written, intimate and haunting novel based on a true story.
The novel opens with a psychiatrist evaluating Karina to help decide whether she can get custody of her four children. Bit by bit, readers learn details about Katrina’s unnamed husband, his pornography addiction and his efforts to dominate and control her by having her unfairly committed to a mental health ward when she attempts to leave him.
The husband, who pretends to be a devout Christian, convinces the congregation and significant others that Karina is the one damaging the family unit, so they turn against her. Just as she rebuilds her life to prove she can take the children, her world is disrupted in a big way.
Through understated writing that shimmers with depth, the author unveils Karina’s soul in a dark and unsettling way, without having to resort to visually brutal scenes. Karina’s character is rich and believable; her husband sinister through his quiet, yet effective manipulations.
McFarlane generally writes paragraphs that are one sentence each, as in:
“I nodded my head.
“I glared at my husband.
“He looked at me with vague amusement.
“I stared him down.”
This sometimes presents a measured cadence that empowers the story, as in this passage that subtly and effectively raises alarm bells:
“My husband had taught me that you don’t need to yell to intimidate.
A whisper can be terrifying.”
Other times, though, one wonders what is gained by the unusual approach. The staccato effect can be jarring, and it often seems that combining sentences into more fluid, longer paragraphs would ease the reading experience.
The book ends without resolution, portending Part 2. This might put off readers who prefer tidy conclusions. But the story rings loud with strength and truth. Part 1’s intense end will leave many readers dashing for the sequel.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.