Lauren is a woman with Issues. She's earned them, no doubt, but still. Her father was convicted of murdering her mother when Lauren was six, leaving Lauren and her older brother Alex to be raised by their grandparents. As an adult, Lauren has all but blocked out memories of these events, though she has never doubted her father's guilt until Alex declares his own doubts shortly before leaving for a Doctors Without Borders assignment to Iraq. Around this time, Lauren begins experiencing panic attacks, terrified that Alex won't come home to her and haunted by the confusing re-emergence of new and cluttered memories of the circumstances surrounding her mother's death. When Alex goes missing, Lauren decides she needs to continue with his investigation into what really happened and begins to uncover family secrets she never imagined.
The writing is almost offensively bad. There isn't much exposition to shed light on Lauren as a character, and the exposition given is clumsy and forced -- most of it is revealed by Lauren telling it to either Alex or a therapist. I was also bothered by the incongruous nature of the narrative voice. Lauren tells her story from a first-person perspective, and she does so with quite a bit of clarity. At the same time, I was being told that she is a woman suffering from debilitating panic attacks. It really bothered me that I didn't see her emotional instability genuinely coming through in her voice. As someone who has suffered severe, sometimes crippling panic attacks, what I was reading felt inauthentic -- as though the author had simply skimmed the WebMD entry for panic attacks and regurgitated the information with little thought to how it would genuinely shape the character. The scenes with Lauren's therapist were terribly pedestrian, as someone who has both sat through therapy sessions to deal with anxiety and has studied how to conduct such sessions with others. I know that everyone's experience is different, but this seriously felt like it was written by someone who has never known anyone who has so much as spoken to a therapist. And, for the most part, the sessions didn't shed any light on Lauren's psyche at all. They mostly served the purpose of being able to say, "Look: this character has Issues. She has to see a therapist for them."
In the middle of Lauren's story we are introduced to a new set of characters, including Sylvia and Victoria. The second I met them, I knew where this story was headed and I wanted to give up the entire thing. This book could have told a poignant story, but it ultimately felt like a phoned-in effort that had been rushed through with no attempts to make it feel authentic.