Some books are unputdownable. Not many. A few. This one is one of them. It is an absolutely gripping story and from the very first page I was hooked and kept on reading to find out more. It is a story about domestic abuse and the awful consequences that it can have, how life is never the same again. Genre-wise it is somewhere between a mental disorder novel and a psychological thriller but mostly it is the last one.
Catherine spends her life catering to the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder that is keeping her from living. By all means, she is surviving but living she is not. Every day she triple checks (or more) the locks on her door, her windows, the front door. If she fails to check it correctly, she has to do it all over again. And sometimes her world falls apart and she descends into a full-scale panic attack. The descriptions of living with OCD are scary in their truth, the way the disorder drives her life and dictates every little action. For a long time Catherine has been living alone with her disorder, not telling anyone about it though some are bound to have guessed it. Then a new neighbour moves in, a psychologist, and he recognizes her symptoms and offers her a friendly shoulder to lean on and advice on how to get help.
So far so good.
The story is told in two tracks - one is set in 2008 and one in 2004. The Catherine in the 2004 story is a very different young woman. Outgoing, vivacious and full of life, she lives life as a single girl to the max - partying and having fun. Then she meets the gorgeous Lee who is very keen on going from date to full-on boyfriend and within months of their initial meeting, they are to all intents and purposes living together. However, something is not quite right. Lee is sometimes gone for days, working a job that he is very secretive about and sometimes Catherine gets the feeling that he is watching her, keeping tabs on her.
Then one day he hits her for the first time and from then on the relationship becomes more and more violent until the day he almost kills her....
In 2008, Lee is a serving a three-year long prison sentence for the violence he inflicted on Catherine while she is serving a life-sentence in the prison that is OCD, worrying about the day when Lee will be released.
This is a really really difficult book to read because it isn't (as so many psychological thrillers and crime fiction novels) something far off. This could happen to your or to your friends. Domestic abuse is an underreported crime that still smacks of taboo and I take my hat off to Haynes for having written such a strong novel about it. The description of the isolation that Lee manages to put Catherine in is what scared me the most - again because it was so incredibly believable. His psychopathic personality charms her friends into thinking that she is the one with the problem and thus he gets space, peace and quiet to beat her and treat her just as he wishes.
Well-written, well put together with lots of page-turning moment and a good pace, this is the perfect read for a lazy weekend or to bring with you on holiday.