“A different person might have let this go. You could say I chase strife and welcome complication.”
Eliza Fontaine is no stranger to drama. She’s always had a flair for the melodramatic. But her most extreme acts were caused by a brain tumor. Resulting in extreme paranoia and multiple drowning attempts. After a life saving surgery, she is given a second chance at life. But, weeks before her debut novel is released, Eliza wakes up in the hospital after being rescued from yet another pool. Except this time, Eliza swears she was pushed.
To her family, this pattern feels all too familiar though, and Eliza finds that no one is listening to her. Armed with only her rescuer as her only witness, she embarks on her own investigation into who pushed her.
The further she gets in her investigation, the stranger things get for Eliza. Her family begin to confuse her life with her book’s characters. Her friends insist she’s behaving bizarrely even though she has no memory of what they describe. And she swears she’s being followed by a shadowy presence. One that looks identical to Eliza.
As her publication date draws nearer, Eliza feels more and more fragile. Like her sanity is hanging on a precipice. She doesn’t know who she can trust. Who is lying. Who is telling her the truth. And worst of all, if she can even trust herself to find the answers she so desperately wants.
“Maybe any of us could be anybody. Maybe it just depends on who we surround ourselves with.”
The Eliza’s is full of eco much to love! Dark humor. A protagonist that you sort of hate to love. Suspense. And the creepy feeling that something really insane is happening.
From the very beginning we know that Eliza is going to be an unreliable narrator. She doesn’t even remember the night in question after all. But the more we learn about Eliza, the more we realize how unreliable she actually is. Her investigation into who pushed her into the pool leads to more and more of her own past coming into question.
The thing I really loved about this entire book, is that Eliza isn’t exactly a warm, soft character. She is unlikable in many ways. And so much of the premise of Eliza being a victim relies on what she believes. Since she doesn’t even know if she can trust her own thoughts, it’s difficult at times to think that she’s the victim. Or at least, to feel sympathetic to her.
“Sufferers are more than the sum of their suffering, but the rest of the world doesn’t see that.”
The narration is told in (mostly) alternating chapters from Eliza and from her book. As we get more of her novel, we start to wonder what the truth really is. Are we witnessing the descent into a mental break? Or is there something more nefarious at play?
I will admit that some of the twists may be easily guessed by the reader. However, I’m not sure that the twist is the point. This is a book where the tension is built based on the journey we go through with the character, not the end result. It doesn’t matter whether Eliza’s life was truly in danger or not. But the fact that she felt it was. That she could no longer trust herself, or her thoughts, or her memories. Her identity and entire sense of self was on the cusp of unraveling. As the reader, we go through all of this with her. We feel her terror, her uncertainty, her confusion.
That isn’t to say that the twists themselves aren’t full of manipulation, deceit, and betrayals. Because oh man, talk about twisted! Each truth revealed uncovers a level of dysfunction that is sickening.
“It’s probably cruel, and maybe I should forgive him, but it’s just too comforting to convert my shame into punishing wrath.”
Once you get beyond the twists, and the general awfulness of what happened, there is a fascinating discussion on mental health written in these pages. I think the specifics may offer too many spoilers, so I won’t get into too many details. However, I do think that this is an excellent book to explore the notion of what crazy really is.
Eliza isn’t a likable character. Which makes it difficult for her to navigate in a world where she needs answers from other people. But the labels placed on her are very real labels and reactions. How easy is it to dismiss people we don’t like? Or don’t understand? At what point do we listen to someone rather than label them? Or try to fix them?
The Eliza’s offers a satisfying story, full of psychological nuance and bite. I love how dark, edgy, and macabre it is. This is Shepard’s first adult novel, and I am a huge fan! I think there is a ton offered in the pages for fascinating discussions in groups and book clubs.
Thank you BookSparks for sending me a copy to read and review!