Happy Tuesday, Reading Nook!
Today, I'm reviewing Lacy Eye by Jessica Treadway. It's an intriguing mystery involving family and trust, and how relationships between family members may sometimes be the most destructive of them all.
It wasn't necessarily for me, but I'm hoping that my review might help point you in the right direction!
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2015)
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
Hanna and Joe send their awkward daughter Dawn off to college hoping that she will finally "come into her own." When she brings her new boyfriend, Rud, to her sister's wedding, her parents try to suppress their troubling impressions of him for Dawn's sake. Not long after, Hanna and Joe suffer a savage attack at home, resulting in Joe's death and Hanna's severe injury and memory loss.
Rud is convicted of the crime, and the community speculates that Dawn may also have been involved. When Rud wins an appeal and Dawn returns to live in the family home, Hanna resolves to recall that traumatic night so she can testify in the retrial, exonerate her daughter, and keep her husband's murderer in jail.
But as those memories resurface, Hanna faces the question of whether she knows her own daughter-and whether she ever did.
Author Jessica Treadway introduces us to Hanna, the family matriarch and narrator for the story. While the synopsis indicates that the events of the story will unfold sequentially, we actually first meet Hanna several months after the crime. She's physically and emotionally damaged from what the press has dubbed the Croquet Murder, and her fears are only exacerbated when she learns that the man suspected of committing the crimes - her daughter Dawn's too-good-to-be-true ex-boyfriend Rud - has won an appeal. Now, Hannah must work to reconcile both past and present...
From the very first page, it's evident that Treadway is a deft hand at crafting complex mysteries. While we start off with the general facts of the attack on Hanna and her husband, Treadway takes her time unveiling the leadup to the fateful attack.
She intermixes flashbacks of both the far past and the immediate past, showing how Dawn has grown up feeling isolated and ashamed of her lazy (or "lacy eye", a term that Dawn coins, and Hanna and husband believe to be indicative of Dawn's intellectul failings), and how social isolation has more or less contributed to Dawn's compulsion to seek out someone like Rud, who is externally charming but internally unstable.
And for the most part... the buildup works.
While Hanna's inner monologue had a tendency to go on a bit - I tried skipping a few pages at one point, only to realize that Hanna was still talking about the same thing as I got back into the story - Treadway writes in a compelling, easy-to-read way (think the narrative in a good Stephen King story) where readers will begin to literally feel like they're seeing and experiencing every paranoid moment Hanna has, including her fears about being watched by strangers, and her feares that her daughter is not whom she believes her to be.
Even when Treadway throws a few red herrings into the mix, there's a sense that even those red herrings are predicated on the beliefs of an unstable, uncertain mind, and it's ultimately up to the reader to try to figure out what's real and what isn't real, as we speed closer and closer to the end.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
With all of that being said, I thought that it was more than obvious from the beginning that Dawn had played a role in the attack.
Unlike Jake in Finding Jake, I felt that both the past and present Dawn never showed any sort of internal empathy for others, which would help throw off any suspicion regarding her strange behavior. While Tredway certainly does try to imply at several points that Dawn's behavior is less suspicious, and more just because of a lack of intelligence and lack of understanding re: normal social cues, she doesn't necessarily convey this through Dawn's behavior.
E.g. Many of Dawn's decision in the present section of the novel - e.g. trying to forge her mom's signature on a $30K loan - are poorly conceived, but still obviously required such a degree of chutzpah and daring, that you can't help but become suspicious of her.
Ultimately, when it came down to it, my inability to sympathize with Dawn's struggle, meant that a significant amount of the mystery didn't exactly work for me. However, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts too!
I suspect that a lot of readers will feel introspective after reading, which is always a good thing when it comes to a piece of fiction like this. I recommend this book for mystery fans, and for fans of books like Gone Girl and We Need to Talk about Kevin.
About the author:
A professor of creative writing at Emerson College in Boston, Jessica Treadway's story collection Please Come Back to Me received the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and was published by University of Georgia Press in 2010. Her other books are the novel And Give You Peace, which was published by Graywolf Press in 2001 and named to Booklist's Top 10 Debut Novels of 2001, and the collection Absent Without Leave (Delphinium Books/Simon & Schuster), which received the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares in 1993.
Her stories have appeared in The Atlantic, The Hudson Review, Ploughshares, Five Points, Glimmer Train, AGNI, Shenandoah, and Bellevue Literary Review, among others. Treadway has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She is a former member of the Board of Directors of PEN New England, where she served as co-chair of the Freedom to Write Committee. She lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.