Tuesday, August 23, 2011
For most of her life, Lauren Mahdian has been certain of two things: that her mother is dead, and that her father is a murderer.
Before the horrific tragedy, Lauren led a sheltered life in a wealthy corner of America, in a town outside Manhattan on the banks of Long Island Sound, a haven of luxurious homes, manicured lawns, and seemingly perfect families. Here Lauren and her older brother, Alex, thought they were safe.
But one morning, six-year-old Lauren and eight-year-old Alex awoke after a night spent in their tree house to discover their mother’s body and their beloved father arrested for the murder.
Years later, Lauren is surrounded by uncertainty. Her one constant is Alex, always her protector, still trying to understand the unraveling of his idyllic childhood. But Lauren feels even more alone when Alex reveals that he’s been in contact over the years with their imprisoned father—and that he believes he and his sister have yet to learn the full story of their mother’s death.
Then Alex disappears.
As Lauren is forced to peek under the floorboards of her carefully constructed memories, she comes to question the version of her history that she has clung to so fiercely. Lauren’s search for the truth about what happened on that fateful night so many years ago is a riveting tale that will keep readers feverishly turning pages. -- Random House
When I heard that Amanda Eyre Ward had a new novel out, I was extremely excited. I've been a fan of hers since my book club read one of her books many years ago, and I quickly devoured all of her other books soon after. I liked her work so much, I was even willing to give her short story collection LOVE STORIES IN THIS TOWN a try. (Guess what? I liked it too -- here's my review.) So when I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate in Random House's Secret Reads (#secretread on twitter), I couldn't have been happier especially since the book was Amanda Eyre Ward's CLOSE YOUR EYES.
I thought CLOSE YOUR EYES was an outstanding novel. And if I'm being honest, it's exactly what I've come to expect from Ms. Ward. She's an amazing writer and she has a unique ability to write about complex family dynamics. In CLOSE YOUR EYES, Ms. Ward takes on an extremely unusual situation -- two adults whose lives were torn apart by the murder of their mother. To make things even more complicated, their father was the one who was arrested for her murder.
At its heart, CLOSE YOUR EYES tells the story of Lauren, a conflicted and troubled woman who was only eight years old when her life drastically changed. While she did have some fond memories of her childhood, she chose to have nothing to do with her father after her mother's death. However, her brother (and probably the person to whom Lauren feels the closest), has been keeping in touch with him and believes that he is innocent of the crime. When Lauren's brother goes missing, Lauren is forced to face her past as well as her relationship with her father.
CLOSE YOUR EYES was definitely a page turner for me namely because I was so interested in the character of Lauren. I thought Ms. Ward did an excellent job in showing how Lauren was constantly dealing with events from her childhood and the effects they had on her current relationships. However, in many ways, this book was also a great example of a literary mystery. Despite all of the evidence which made it appear that Lauren's father was guilty of murdering her mother, there were too many loose ends that didn't quite come together for me. I appreciated how the truth behind the crime was gradually revealed to the reader, and I admit that I couldn't turn the pages fast enough as the book neared the end.
One thing that I found interesting about this novel was how the author told the story. I felt as if the book was primarily Lauren's story (maybe because I enjoyed her character so much), but that was really only part of the book. The novel is divided into five distinct "books," and the books actually alternate between Lauren and Sylvia, a 41 year old woman who is pregnant and running from her boyfriend. At first I was a bit confused as to how Sylvia fit into Lauren's story, but I sat back and just trusted Ms. Ward. Of course, she delivered with her beautiful prose and I was blown away by how these two women's lives came together.
CLOSE YOUR EYES would make a fantastic book club selection because there are so many things to discuss. I found so many of the characters (even the secondary ones) to be fascinating and I think the relationships in this novel are worth assessing too. I wasn't able to find a reader's guide on-line; however, I seriously doubt you'd have a problem finding things to talk about. Some of the themes which you might want to explore include family dynamics, love, loss, grief, faith, forgiveness, and redemption.
I enjoyed CLOSE YOUR EYES so very much. I loved Ms. Ward's writing as well as her storytelling abilities and I highly recommend the book to fans of literary mysteries.
Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel.