Stayed up ’til 5:30 to finish. [Mr. PCN] wasn’t feeling well and really needed sleep so I couldn’t read in bed with the lights on. Instead, I STOOD IN THE HALLWAY to read. Why didn’t I go to the living room? Because I thought I’d just read a little and then go to sleep. I didn’t even sit down or lean against the wall. I really wanted to be as uncomfortable as possible to tire myself out so I’d go to bed. But I kept reading, and reading, and next thing I knew, I’d been standing in the hallway for three hours.
That might sound insane, but I love it when a book makes me do that. This is the story of twentysomething Catherine Bailey, who meets super-hot guy Lee Brightman at a nightclub. There’s a spark of attraction, which quickly grows into a relationship, then devolves into a nightmarish, obsessive situation.
The novel begins with Brightman on trial in 2005 for an attack on Catherine, though he spins it as something else. Cut to 2007, and Catherine, now Cathy, has turned into a hermit living in a different city, with PTSD and an extreme case of OCD that makes her repeatedly check the locks on her doors and windows. It’s exhausting, but at least she’s a survivor rebuilding her life. And then she gets a phone call saying Lee is being released from prison.
Cathy is certain Lee will come for her, but has a hard time convincing others of that, including the kind upstairs neighbor who might be developing an interest in her. She starts feeling gaslighted, as little things in her apartment are moved around, something Lee used to do, but nothing she can call the cops about. Would she have to confront him herself, and would she survive this time?
Haynes cuts back and forth between 2003, when the two lovers first meet, and 2007, when Cathy is a shadow of her former self. Each time period plays with our emotions differently. It’s nice to see Catherine and Lee in happier times, when they were passionate and romantic. But as the story gets closer to the date of when The Terrible Thing happened, I was filled with dread, not wanting to witness it.
In 2007, Cathy’s OCD is sometimes painful to read about, but Haynes helps us understand the reasons behind her protag’s compulsions. And her growing friendship with Stuart, the nice neighbor, gives the story a sense of hope. Until Lee gets out of prison, and the terror starts all over again.
The novel has its frustrations, such as how Catherine couldn’t find one person, not even among close friends, who would believe her when things with Lee start taking a dark turn (everyone’s dazzled by his surface charm), or how she makes it astoundingly easy for him to find her in 2007 (let’s just say her contact info is the opposite of unlisted). But there was no stopping my obsession with knowing how it’d all end. After finishing the book, standing in the hallway at 5:30 a.m., I let out a sigh of relief that I could breathe—and sleep—again.
Nerd verdict: Head straight to the Corner