Uncertainty, discomfort, fear and lack of control are just part of what young Lucy endured for 13 years. Always looking in many directions, never having any final roots where she could live without having to pack up at a moment notice, this young girl lives on the edge with a mother who appears to be harsh, paranoid and dark. Rules were made about appearances, how to act in public, never letting on anything about who or what you are, even having to wear contacts to hide the violet eyes, Lucy lived a fabricated life one which the woman she called mom created.
Never really knowing what was coming next, she sees a man who recognizes her and then they are on the run again this time to New Hampshire and to an isolated place fenced in with electric wire fences keeping the public and anyone else out. No one gets close to either one of them or using her mom’s iPad under certain supervised conditions not allowing her total access. Claiming she was kidnapped by her real father and that she took her back, she created an image that would be instilled in her mind until it was not. Living in 11 states since she was two, never being able to develop any true friendships, Lucy? Wants to live in this isolated town hopefully finding a friend in the owner’s daughter, Gretchen. But, from the moment you meet her and her single father, Jerry you get a haunting and chilling feeling, but you have yet to know why. A ranch and hopefully a new friend Lucy digs in her heels and her mother agree to sign the lease and live there. But not everything is as it seems and Gretchen is domineering, controlling and wants to create a world for Lucy under her domination. She has created jigsaw puzzles that are dark and remind you of death and they refer to bones. She loves scrabble and she taunt Lucy into playing some odd and strange games as well as the way she and her father act towards each other, the hidden truth behind how he injured or broke his finger and the way Gretchen seems to have him under her control too. Lies are easy for Gretchen to tell she believes that she says as the story is told from Lucy’s viewpoint and another called The Mother. Just who is Mags and how does her story connect with Lucy as the truth will unravel and the eerie feeling that you get when you get to know Susan her mother who has her running in all directions, you realize that something odd has occurred and the woman called Mags has a story to reveal that will shock readers and Lucy.
When Lucy finally gets a job in Dyson’s she does not realize that she has an ally in the young man she is working with as she decides to tell him about Gretchen, her odd fixation with puzzles, games and strange meals and habits and then her mother’s way of isolating her and not dealing with her when she dares to defy the rules and her. Jealous of her friendship with Gretchen and yet we learn that Gretchen oversteps her boundaries and Lucy at times feels held captive by her fearing for her safety as she finally flees with Dali who listens to her story and wants to help her learn the truth about who she really is.
.As Lucy gets to know Gretchen and he father she realizes that she has entered a world that is foreign to her and quite dangerous. The puzzles are strange and dark, the ones that she created for her would give anyone the chills and turn you off to jigsaw puzzles and let’s not forget Lucy’s pet cat Allen who plays a major role in the finale when things take on another dark turn.
Learning about Mags and her sister Carly we also learn the hidden truths behind Lucy’s birth, who her father really is and the sick way he treated everyone he came in contact with including the woman who kidnapped her and in her own mind things she save her life. Added in she wanted to go to school and Gretchen never had an education except what she invented for herself and the weird rooms in her house, the claustrophobic atmosphere and the lack of windows that would let in some air. Plus having to keep her head down, not looking someone directly in the eyes and following her harsh rules and feeling confined always. A man with a beard sets them off when we meet them at the beginning thinking he knows her and then we find Dr. Nathan in the small town they live in when she sees him in Dyson’s and then when her mother comes there to shop. Jerry Sabin the man they are renting from has his own hidden lies and when we meet Earl and Jerry we learn more about what really happened to him how he used them for his own purposes and then how Earl and Mags finally find a way to hopefully free Lucy. Could you live somewhere where there are Keep Out signs all over the property, alarms, traps and an electrical fence. What about a young girl who lost her mother and has this wild fixation with puzzles and only wants Lucy to accept her as more than just a friend but like her keeper and director of her life. Things spiral out of control when we learn the truth about Lucy’s mother, at least the one that she has been living with for 13 years and we learn the truth about why they are always on the run plus Mags tells us the hidden truth about her birth, the friendship with the kidnapper and how she only wanted to help her but was betrayed.
When Mags finally connects with the Detective who has been on the case from the start, learns where Lucy is living the road to freeing her is not easy and the way the author creates the twists, the curves and the danger will keep you glued to the printed page, holding your breath and hoping for an ending that will set Lucy free but will she ever be really free?
Lucy learns the truth about her mother and who she really is but somehow she winds up Gretchen’s captive because she has kidnapped Allen and wants him back. Tricked she winds up locked up but thinking clearly as she looks for ways to escape as Mags and others try to find a way to get into this fortress, understand what is really happening and Mags faces her adversary and the final blow come to pass.
Friendships are precious to Lucy but this one is toxic and we hear the words of this mother as she tries to justify her actions to Lucy in her final account of what in her own mind she did to her being delusional and dangerous yet feeling that she did everything to protect her thinking she was hers in her own mind.
A landlord that appeared to be a recluse and a concert pianist who was afraid that his finger would be broken and did not touch anything with his hands and wore gloves. Gretchen, his daughter was not seen all summer, and no one knows much about her. Things grew tense for Lucy, and she realized that he had to do something but what? Two young girls wanting a strong friendship and bond. Two hoping that they would have something to keep their teen years rising in a positive way. One needed control and wanted to have her friend be a clone of herself while the other just wanted to be a teen with a great friend. A mother who searched for 13 years for her child and never gave up and one that created a world that was toxic and volatile for Lucy. At the end the solution will shock readers and is tragic in some respects as the world learns that there are two Gretchens, but which one will stand tall? Hope, fear, joy, sorrow, love, trust, understanding and the undying determination of her mother for her child that was taken from her. Author Shannon Kirk takes us deep inside Mags and the other woman who both thought that they could provide what a young girl needed but which one will win?
Fran Lewis: Just reviews