This book was part of a batch that I picked up in a charity shop in a five-for-a-fiver frenzy. It sounded pretty good:
Nine-year-old Conor, haunted by the ‘ghost man’, is labelled autistic. His mother, Laura, an aloof, enigmatic novelist, can’t handle him. His rancher father Alan is fighting desperately to keep him from institutionalisation. As psychiatrist James is pulled more and more deeply into the mysterious workings of this family, he discovers a world where what is imagined seems as real as what is true, a world that hides a terrible secret.
Then I started reading it, and decided pretty quickly that I didn’t like it. Too many grammatical errors in the first few pages for my liking, and the way Laura spoke drove me crazy. But I stuck with it, mainly because I can’t afford to buy truckloads of books right now, so when I do buy some I feel like I have to read them.
There were a couple of passages that particularly resonated with me in the first few chapters; potential redemption, I thought. I ploughed on. And I’m glad I did.
About half way through the book, I realised that I finally cared about the characters. Then it started getting exciting: a few twists and turns which I did see coming, but only a couple of pages before they happened, which made me want to keep reading to see if I was right. Torey Hayden seems to understand how a reader will be thinking, and write characters that think in the same way, so that even if you’re wrong about how things are going to turn out, you’re wrong alongside one of the characters, which makes you feel like you haven’t failed the novel somehow.
The further in you get, the more gripping it becomes, and ultimately this book is an interesting comment on the nature of reality, and on psychological diagnoses in the Western world today.
I wouldn’t seek it out, but if you do happen to come across it, don’t give up in the first half. It’s worth the work.