The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen was a book I rated highly last year (4.5 stars which is rare for me). It was delightfully twisty and offered up some complex (and not always likeable) characters.
I can’t quite fathom how two authors can co-write a novel. Indeed, my childhood bestie and I attempted that very thing when we were 8 or 9 years old and it didn’t end well. (I ripped up the book and threw it away. Thankfully she resurrected it from our rubbish bin and stuck it back together and it became a gift we ‘gave’ each other every few years. And I’m fairly certain she must still have it as I last gifted it to her in the 1990s sometime!)
Anyhoo… Hendricks and Pekkanen seem to make it work.
An Anonymous Girl
by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen
Published by Macmillan
on December 27th 2018
Genres: Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 1250133734, 9781529010725
Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.
When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave.
But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding.
As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.
Jessica is a delightful character. She’s had some bad luck in the past and she’s sympathetic and likeable. So it’s worrying when it’s obvious she’s become a pawn in a game that’s far-removed from the experiment it started out to be.
She comes to us fully formed with some baggage and unpredictable and unhealthy coping mechanisms and behaviour. She’s accepted these parts of her life but is ashamed of them nonetheless. And ultimately (and unexpectedly) Dr Shields helps Jessica deal with some of the guilt, hurt and anger she’s been nursing and I must admit, she ended up surprising me. In a good way.
Dr Shields is initially a bit of an enigma – frighteningly rigid and flexible (at the same time) when it comes to the ‘rules of therapy’ – but turns out to be somewhat of a surprise. And I liked that the authors didn’t go down the route of the doctor being a completely evil nutter. Although….
The plot unfolds through Jessica and Dr Shields. Jessica’s chapters are written in first person but Dr Shield’s start in second person. I noted it felt like a narrator or observer was present. Later the doctor’s chapters (also) move to first person but remain intermingled with second person musings… as if talking directly to Jessica. As one would attempt to justify oneself to someone they know they’re likely to hurt or destroy, I suspect.
There are a few other characters – love interests for both main characters, one of whom may actually be less trustworthy than Dr Shields (which means Jessica needs to decide who to trust) and we get a peek into the early lives of both.
There are a couple of themes underlying this book’s premise. Of course there’s the obvious one around morality and ethics (the subject of Dr Shields’ study) as well as the concept of change and transformation (something touched on literally in Jessica’s work as a makeup artist and metaphorically in terms of one’s behaviour).
And finally, the concept of ‘judgement’ is consistently referenced and introduced in a preface to each section of the book. Our tendency to judge others without having all of the facts; the fact we’re quick to judge – that it’s a reflex influenced by our own thoughts, attitudes and values; and that we’re usually given the option to reflect on our responses and may come to later regret them.
I really enjoyed this and easily read it in a sitting – though hadn’t planned to. I’m loving the fresh, twisty and complex plots Hendricks and Pekkanen are introducing and am looking forward to their next collaboration.
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen will be published on 27 December 2018 in Australia by Pan Macmillan.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.