We meet Hanna Schutt three years after she was bludgeoned with a croquet club and left for dead. Her husband Joe was less fortunate, dying of his injuries before a friend discovered their beaten and bleeding bodies.
No one expected Hanna to live, so her ‘dying declaration’, which indicated the involvement of her daughter’s boyfriend Rud Petty, sent him to prison for his actions. Many—including Hanna’s other daughter Iris, the police and prosecutor—also believed Dawn to be involved… to some extent. But, although Dawn sided with her boyfriend against her family (maintaining his innocence throughout his trial), Hanna didn’t believe her daughter capable of such an atrocity. And when Dawn’s flatmate alibis her, Rud alone faced punishment.
Dawn had a difficult childhood—partially because of her lazy eye (affectionately nicknamed lacy eye). Hanna and Joe did what they could to protect her but she had few friends and grated on those around her.
Not long after heading to college Dawn met and fell in love with the older, handsome but slightly menacing Rud.
Things come to a head at Thanksgiving when Dawn and Rud are visiting and items go missing. The police are called in and attention centres on Rud. Angry about the accusation, Dawn and Rud pack up and leave. Later that night Hanna and Joe are attacked. The link seems obvious and all evidence points to Rud.
And now, three years on, Rud’s lawyer gets Hanna’s dying declaration excluded resulting in a retrial. Although Hanna remembers nothing of the attack, she agrees to testify against Rud and attempts to piece together the events of that night. It’s a challenge as she still bears the scars, in all senses of the word.
The surgeons had done their best, but the scars were obvious, and my features looked as if they’d been pulled apart and rearranged, like a Picasso painting. Maybe in a museum a distorted face is a symbol, but it’s become all too clear to me that nobody appreciates encountering one on the street. No symbolism there—it means your face has been bashed in.
In the intervening years Hanna and Dawn have maintained contact but when Dawn returns home it’s the first time she’s seen her mother since Hanna left hospital. Iris is furious her mother has permitted Dawn to return home and concerned Hanna’s life will be at risk. Dawn however, maintains that she now believes Rud is guilty and only wishes to support her mother.
If She Did It is compared to We Need To Talk About Kevin, so you know there’s going to be some fucked-up family stuff bubbling to the surface for the Schutt family. We’re not surprised then, when Dawn turns out to be a bad egg.
The question is just how bad? Was she just so desperate for friendship and love she inadvertently inspired the attack on her parents; or was/is she capable of more? To complicate matters Hanna discovers some evidence which doesn’t support the police’s version of what happened, meaning they may even have the wrong person incarcerated.
This book really took me by surprise. I could not put it down which was problematic as I started reading it at about 9.30pm at night. I HAD to keep reading. Like Hanna, I HAD to know. I NEEDED answers.
Author Jessica Treadway does a great job of keeping us guessing. The novel unfolds from Hanna’s point of view but alternates between the now and then.
The unravelling of the plot is perfectly paced as Hanna ponders—not only the events leading up to the attack—but also her relationship with Joe and Dawn’s difficult childhood. Like any parent she wonders what she should have done differently and feels partially to blame for the person her daughter has become. But, a mother’s love… etc etc. She’s willing to continue to give Dawn the benefit of the doubt and help her turn her life around.
I’m often disappointed by the final scenes and feel novels fall down with somewhat anticlimactic conclusions. That was not the case here! I loved the ending. Treadway doesn’t shy away from the task at all. I was riveted. To the very end.
In summary and in case you didn’t guess… I LOVED this book.
If She Did It by Jessica Treadway will be published and released in Australia via Hachette on 10 March 2015.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.