The first blow comes out of nowhere, and it comes early. In retrospect, I should have expected it.
Or maybe not.
You can anticipate some of what’s going to happen in Alice Close Your Eyes, even as you grip the edges of the book, pleading with it to change. Alice’s life was destroyed ten years ago, and she’s been biding her time, plotting revenge against the man she holds responsible. She’s been through the system, shuttled from foster home to group home and back again, and when you think finally, finally, something might go her way, it’s yanked out from under her.
Alice is all jagged edges and black spots. She is not happy. She’s too scarred, too empty, too driven by rage. Jack is a greedy, possessive son of a bitch, exhibiting all the signs of an abuser…and Alice stays. Their sex is often violent and painful, Jack needing to dole it out, Alice getting off on taking it. The sweetness he shows her outside of the bedroom, taking care of her when she goes down with the flu, repairing the front porch of her house, would feel out of place if it didn’t happen that often. But it does, and you’re left with whiplash.
This book will tie you in knots. The punches it delivers are infrequent enough to lull you into a sense of security and hard enough to leave you gasping. You want to put it down. You can’t read it anymore, can’t bear to see the next awful thing, the sadistic pleasure they take from each other.
You can’t stop.
You can’t stop turning those pages because you’re searching for a way to redeem Alice, to save Jack from the rabbit hole she’s shoved him down, to hold them both close so they might heal each other. When I reached the last quarter of Alice, I tried to slow down, as if it would stop the inevitable. I ended up racing through it, forgetting to breathe a lot of the time, because I wanted to silence the chant of no in my head.
It’s a mindfuck. The beauty of Averil Dean’s prose combines with a story so raw and disturbing that if you survive unscathed, I’ll be convinced you have no soul. This book brought me to my knees and robbed me of coherent thought. It’s the kind of book when you read it, you’re disturbed and engaged and awed by the power of Alice and you don’t want to be. It forces you to examine all those dark corners of your mind and bring them out, shine a bright light on them so you can convince yourself that you are still okay. I admire Dean’s fearlessness, using her words to bleed me dry, unafraid to mine the darkness for the things that will shatter me and leave me alone to put the pieces back together.
I hadn’t intended to write an entire post to this book. I had to. Alice has Triggers, with a capital T. People with issues about abuse and abusive relationships, sexual violence, and rape should not read Alice. It’s not for the faint of heart. I think you’d need a will of steel not to succumb to the insidious black of Alice Close Your Eyes. Everyone has a book that blows them away, that changes the way they think, yet again, about writing or fiction or how a romance should play out.
This is mine.
Copy of Alice Close Your Eyes provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.