Published by HarperCollins, New York 2010
Eliza Benedict lived a well balanced and happy life with her husband and two children in Bethesda Maryland. She was at least as happy as any mother could be trying to keep a willful teenage daughter and an active eight year old boy from killing each other. It had been twenty years since those terrifying days and she could safely say “I survived – Isn’t that what matters?” It was rare in the last few years that she had to use the code words, “the summer I was fifteen” to explain some erratic behavior to Peter. He understood the code. Sometimes the most mundane things like a certain style haircut would set it off.
Then she received a letter. “I’d know you anywhere”, is how it started. Accompanied by the letter was a cut out from a magazine, the Washingtonian. It was a photo of Peter and Eliza at a party for Peter’s work taken the summer before. The letter was from Walter! The man who had abducted her when she was fifteen and kept her for 39 days was sitting on death row. His many stays of execution had run out and he was finally going to be put to death for his crimes. But he had a secret that he would only tell to Eliza. He was still manipulating her from the cell. Could she put herself back through all those memories to find out what it was? Did she even care? Or did she have some secrets herself about those horrific 39 days?
Walter Bowan was confused about girls. To him they never really knew what they wanted. They were always changing their minds. He was good looking. He liked to compare himself to Chuck Norris. Girls would accept rides from boys in pick up trucks in Martinsburg in the 80’s. But they were just a tease. He just wanted to be their boyfriend. They always started to cry.
Elizabeth Lerner loved Madonna. What 15 year old girl didn’t in 1985? She was given quite a bit of freedom to do as she pleased compared to her other friends. As long as she didn’t just “hang out” at the mall. “Do something healthy, take a walk, get fresh air.” So Elizabeth took walks, more often than not by herself. Dressed in fingerless lace gloves and a mini-skirt over her knee length tights, she decided to make a short cut through the woods to the Roy Rogers where she might find some friends.
Lippman creates a thrilling drama in this novel incorporating both the present day Eliza with the fifteen year old Elizabeth. She had moved beyond the fear and created a new person in herself. However, the effects never totally left her and they present themselves through the relationships with her husband, children and sister. The plot is obvious, but the subplots are subtle and challenging. Was she an innocent victim or had she become an accomplice in the murder of Holly Tackett? Could she face him again 20 years later to get the answer that had been haunting her for all this time? This evoking drama will play your psyche like a fiddle. What would you do to stay alive if abducted by a serial killer? How would you move on to a normal life?
Joanie Fuller is vice president of the Goodland Civic Association. She and her husband of 46 years, David Fuller, are residents of Goodland.