Part book review, part impressionistic scribblings on the joys of reading and the struggles of carving out time in which to do it,
#ABookishYear is a weekly dispatch from the front lines of an intellectual journey spanning fifty-two tomes.
Fear of All of The Above
By Roxanne Fequiere
When my coworker lent me her copy of Lisa Gardner’s Find Her, she said something to the effect of: “I’ll never read this again, but it’s very good.” It was my first hint that its subject matter would fit well into my theme of scary stories. Still, I had no way of knowing of just how well—and terrifyingly—it would combine the elements of the last three scary books I’d read. Find Her contains a fictional treatment of the nonfictional mobile violence chronicled in Ginger Strand’s Killer On the Road, a stalker character that rivals the narrator of Caroline Kepnes’ You, and a heartbreaking examination of a mother’s love and how it endures, even in the most harrowing of circumstances.
When Flora Dane is abducted from a Florida beach during spring break, she endures 472 days of physical and psychological torture at the hand of Jacob Ness, a trucker who eventually begins taking her along with him on long hauls. Against all odds, she is eventually rescued and brought back to Boston, where she begins to piece her life back together. Unfortunately, she is unable to grasp the happy, loving person she once was, and she becomes withdrawn from her family, despite their best attempts to welcome her back into the fold. Reflecting on what she witnessed and endured in captivity, Flora feels that remaining utterly alone is the only condition that suits her.
As for the rage that she still harbors five years later, Flora channels that into a particularly dangerous pastime: following the cases of young, female abductees like herself and venturing into the darkness in attempt to either find the victims or punish those who prey on them. Luring the would-be perpetrators by behaving like herself on the night she was abducted five years ago—drunk, carefree, trusting—Flora uses her newly acquired survival skills to disarm the criminals when they strike.
It’s in this way that Flora comes to kill local bartender Devon Goulding after he knocks her out, drags her to a dark garage, and attempts to rape her. By the time the local police arrive on the scene, they’re not quite what to make of the situation. Irritated by Flora’s seeming vigilante tactics, but unable to deny that she acted in self-defense, she’s sent home—only to disappear without a trace hours later. For Flora’s mother, an old nightmare has begun anew and with every passing moment, it’s possible that she may never see her daughter again.
Beyond this point, anything I divulge about the plot could arguably be considered a spoiler, but I will say that I absolutely understand my coworker’s stance on rereading. I can’t imagine making my way through Find Her more than once, though I hardly mean that as negative take on the book itself. The exploration of Flora’s damaged psyche and details of what she went through during both of her stints in captivity, which trickle in as the book’s plot unfolds, are powerful and at times tough to read. Though the crimes committed against Flora are, sadly, not unlike the ones we hear about all too often on the news, we are rarely privy to how the survivors carry on after the fact. It’s an important consideration, one that I’m grateful for even in fictional form. It’s just not the kind of story that you return to for the hell of it.
During my initial reading, however, I did find myself wondering how I can better protect myself from danger. I considered my locks, who among my friends and family have keys, who can see through my windows, how I’d escape if faced with an intruder. I’ve been contemplating a self-defense class for years. As I turned every page, heart racing, I scolded myself for not having done it already. None of these were thoughts that are foreign to me. As a woman in the world, these are notions that pop into my head fairly often as it is. I have to say that I’m looking forward to reading books that don’t shove them to the forefront of my mind. Whether that’s folly by way of sticking my head in the sand or a mere return to normalcy—I suppose that all depends on how you look at it.
Roxanne Fequiere is a New York–based writer and editor who might just make it after all.