Monday, February 27, 2017
For two decades, Elizabeth has tried to escape the ghosts of her past…tried to erase the painful memories…tried to keep out the terrifying nightmares. But twenty years after graduating from the University of Florida, her carefully curated life begins to unravel, forcing her to confront the past she’s tried so hard to forget.
1990s, Gainesville, Florida…
Elizabeth and her two closest friends, Caroline and Ginny, are having the time of their lives in college—binge watching Oprah, flirting for freebies from Taco Bell, and breaking hearts along the way. But without warning, their world is suddenly shattered when a series of horrific acts of violence ravage the campus, changing their lives forever.
Sweeping readers from the exclusive corners of sorority life in the South to the frontlines of the drug-fueled, slacker culture in Manhattan in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, when Elizabeth is forced to acknowledge her role in the death of a friend in order to mend a broken friendship and save her own life, The Drifter is an unforgettable story about the complexities of friendships and the secrets that can ultimately destroy us. -- William Morrow
I picked up THE DRIFTER by Christine Lennon with the intent of reviewing it as part of this week's Mystery Mondays feature; however, when I finished it two days ago, I had second thoughts. While I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, it definitely wasn't the typical thriller or mystery that I usually read and review. In fact in many ways, THE DRIFTER was more of a coming-of-age story. However, I checked out the publisher's website and they are classifying it as thriller/suspense, so I am too for purposes of today's review!
THE DRIFTER follows the life of Elizabeth, a University of Florida sorority girl who later reinvents herself in New York City. The novel begins in present day New York City when Elizabeth is a married woman and mother; however, it also takes place in the early 1990s in Gainesville, Florida, when "Betsy" was in college. After a killing spree on the campus of University of Florida in which Elizabeth's best friend Ginny was brutally murdered, Elizabeth and her new boyfriend run away from Gainesville as fast as they can!
Elizabeth has been hiding from her past for almost twenty years. She feels party responsible for Ginny's death and the guilt has destroyed her friendships as well as her her happiness as a wife and mother. Elizabeth is so disturbed by these past events that she's afraid to let her daughter out of her sight. She eventually realizes that she must to return to Gainesville to deal with her past so she can move forward with her future.
I found THE DRIFTER to be a terrific novel. I'm still not quite certain that I'd classify it as a thriller; however, the ending actually did have quite a few surprises and twists. In all honestly, though, I thought this book was more of a story about Elizabeth and how she coped (or should I say didn't cope) with the murder of her best friend. In many ways, it had the feel of a coming-of-age story, and I do love a good coming-of-age story!
I was extremely impress with the writing in THE DRIFTER, and I was quite surprised to discover that this is Ms. Lennon's debut novel. She did a remarkable job of bringing Elizabeth to life, and an even better job of describing a college campus in the early 1990s -- and I should know because I attended a major state university during the exact same time period. Maybe one of the reasons I enjoyed this novel so much is that it was like a trip down memory lane for me; however, I think the author deserves a lot of credit for writing a story that captured my attention... and help it for the 350+ pages.
Ms. Lennon did a terrific job of highlighting sorority life and female friendships. (Megan Abbott fans -- take note!) They dynamics she portrayed between Betsy, Ginny, and Caroline were spot-on... and not always in a good way. You know how with three friends, someone always feels left out; and this friendship triangle was no exception. I also was impressed with how well the author portrayed the effects of Ginny's death on her friends.
One thing that ended up surprising me about this novel was the ending. I had a feeling that Elizabeth would have to head back to Gainesville before she could move on, and I also suspected that she'd need to talk with her frenemy Caroline; however, I didn't see what was coming. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that her heart-to-heart with Caroline was extremely interesting and answered a lot of questions -- some that I didn't even know needed to be answered.
I think THE DRIFTER would make an excellent book club selection, and I think women my age would really relate to the novel. I was so excited to find that the publisher has a reading guide available with ten thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include loss, grief, guilt, fear, friendship, and forgiveness.
Overall, I thought THE DRIFTER was a fantastic debut novel. Highly recommended to fans of women's fiction and coming-of-age stories as well as fans of suspense (I guess!)
I received a copy of this novel at last year's SIBA.
Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.