This book is brutal. Let me start out by saying that: it's brutal, and there's no two ways about it. In the opening pages, Laura Needham is informed by two police officers that her nine year-old daughter, Betty, has been killed in a hit-and-run accident while walking to dance practice after school. In the pages that follow, we see not only Laura's overwhelming grief but we also gain a window into her turbulent history with David, Betty's father, who has recently left the family for a younger woman.
There's a lot of reviews for this piece that note the lack of hope in the story, which is accurate and relatively unsurprising. I wasn't expecting a hopeful story. Laura struggles to comprehend the loss of Betty and how to handle caring for her younger son now that he is, effectively, an only child with no comprehension of what happened. Laura must deal with this as she is still reeling from her separation from David, who has since fathered a child with his new wife.
I struggle writing reviews of books that leave me with conflicting feelings because I am usually conflicted about the way that the story is resolved and I never know how much I can give away on Goodreads. If it weren't for the last forty to fifty pages, this book certainly would've received a higher rating. I guess I should say that if you are the least bit spoiler wary, it's best to stop reading now and just know that I was disappointed with the conclusion of the story.
Here's the problem: the blurb on the back of the book says that the plot is about Laura's quest for revenge against the man responsible for Betty's death, but that is somewhat misleading. Laura does indeed consider revenge against Mr. A, but only briefly. This aspect of the story comes into play very late and lasts one chapter before Laura changes gears in a completely unbelievable plot twist: She has sex with him and asks him to kill David's new wife. I know that Laura is a less-than-stable character, but I can not conceive of a situation where her actions towards Mr. A have even the slightest tinge of possibility and it colors the end of the story in a way that ruined it for me. Until that point, Doughty had delicately built tension between Laura and the various people surrounding her. The emotion and the prose were gut-wrenching and I truly wanted to know what Doughty was building toward. In the end, though, the conclusion felt equal parts disingenuous and cop-out.
I can't not recommend this book, though, because it is very well written and thoughtfully structured. Just, beware.