I have absolutely no idea where to start with this book. I have never been confronted with anything like it before. It was bone-chilling and enthralling — absolutely captivating. I had to take breaks every so often after particularly gruesome scenes, but upon picking it up, I was sucked right back in.
The novel begins with Luke, a doctor in the lazy town of St. Andrew, Maine, who arrives for his night shift only to have his life completely altered. The police bring in a girl, handcuffed and covered in blood who confessed to killing a man in the middle of the woods. When left alone to make sure that she, Lanore, was not wounded herself, Luke discovers that Lanny is (dare I use the cliche) different. After seeing doubt in Luke’s eyes when she begs him to escape, Lanny steals a scalpel and slices open her chest. As the pieces of her flesh slowly crawl back together, Luke is filled with absolute terror — and Lanny begins her story.
The book is divided between the present day consisting of Luke and Lanny’s interactions and the 1800’s, when Lanny was born. We learn of her childhood, and the early development of her feelings for the son of the town’s founder, Jonathan St. Andrew. Jonathan is an image of crippling beauty, undeniable to anyone who meets him. But Lanny’s friendship with him does not mask her growing infatuation and her drive to make him solely hers turns into a dangerous obsession.
The novel spans years, a multitude of settings and beyond everything else, a phenomenal cast of characters. Lanny, Jonathan and the villain, Adair, were so complex and well-written that they came alive on the page for me. For those of you who need a sympathetic narrator, Lanny is not for you. Though at times, my heart broke for her, I also equally burned with anger. Jonathan was the perfect object for Lanny’s affections; knowing his effect on women, mainly Lanny, but though deeply saddened by the hearts he breaks, unable to let them go. And Adair….
Adair was by far the most well constructed villain I have read, possibly ever. He was malicious, evil masked in the body of a handsome young man, but with such detail that you actually feared him as a reader. Like many villains, he did not take a backseat to the other characters. He exists at the forefront of the novel, living and breathing by Lanny’s side for great lengths of time.
Above everything, this book was about obsession in it’s rawest form. For anyone who has ever felt that tinge of infatuation — imagine this blown up by an atomic bomb and you will half understand how Lanny feels about Jonathan. Each character has an obsession — something driving everything they do. If I had to describe a setting for the book, imagine being alone in the middle of winter at midnight in a forest, being chased by someone out for your blood. This is how I felt with this book propped on my lap each night. It was astonishing.
Now, be warned that this book is not a light read in any way. It has some of the most gruesome scenes I have ever read including rape of both men and women, torture and a multitude of sexual escapades. Some readers have commented that sex is almost another character in this book and though I understand that concept, I also think that Katsu used it in all the right places and no sexual encounter failed to further the plot line.
Even reading over this review, I can honestly tell you that you won’t understand the prowess of this novel until you read it. You will be (oh yep, I am going to say it) completely taken with Alma Katsu’s debut novel. Oh and P.S. The writing is stunning!