Author: Annabel Pitcher Published: 2012 by Orion
Once again, I have finished a book and am left with a totally depressing book-hangover and a complete heart smattering over the ending. This novel is sweet, honest and touching, but written so strongly, even if it may not seem so at first, the story draws you in, hook, line, sinker and heart.
Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret—a dark and terrible secret that she can’t confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder.
Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can—in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal.
It took me a little bit of time to adjust to the writing, it seemed that the voice was younger than that of a fifteen-year-old, but as the story progresses, so does Zoe; and I suppose that it’s been a long time since I was fifteen, and I’m sure that my own writing voice would have been much the same at that age. However, once I got past the initial few letters, the whole tone of the book really started to reel me in, and like I’ve said before, I love epistolary novels, and this one, written in the form of letters fits the bill perfectly.
Zoe has done something: something unforgivable, something she can’t tell anyone, something she has to live with. But she has to get it out, and after a bit of good ol’ internet research, Zoe decides to write to Stuart Harris, a criminal across the world, on Death Row in Texas. She writes him letters, with no reply, and she tells him her story. She tells us her story. And it’s a tricky one. The story is complicated, emotionally charged and doesn’t stop giving the reader something to look forward to. I read almost the entire final two-thirds of the book in one sitting.
The characters are intriguing, of course, the twisted love triangle is even more so. And as Zoe gets more and more involved with each of the boys, we learn more and more about her, and more about her relationship to each of them. The most interesting thing about the novel is, technically, we know the ending. We know from the blurb alone that Zoe has done something horrible, and she is writing to a convicted murderer, and revealing her feelings of sympathy for what he must have felt or be feeling. So we can safely surmise that one of the characters is going to die and Zoe is going to have something to do with it. What I really love though, about the novel and the way the story plays out, is that as the reader, we really have no idea who is going to die until the very end of the book. And then when you get there, you’re heart just breaks. Guaranteed.
This book deals with some complicated issues, and gives a stunning insight into guilt, grief and the struggle associated with both. I loved this book, and really didn’t want it to end. But even though it did, and even if it didn’t end how I had imagined it, it was still wonderful, and fresh and very real.
Added Bonus: Here is a manuscript of a talk with Annabel Pitcher about Mental Health: Let’s talk about mental health