All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Still Missing – Chevy Stevens

Still Missing wrapped up my Read-A-Thon. When the clock struck 11pm here in Australia, I was approximately two-thirds of the way through this novel. I paused briefly, to write a wrap up post and then I went to bed and finished it. It was incredible.

Annie O’Sullivan is a 32 year old real estate agent. She has what she would term as a good life – she has her own house, a lovely boyfriend, a devoted dog. She has a fractured relationship with her mother and she has some tragedy in her past with the loss of her father and sister but she is doing well. Then along comes the open house day that changes her whole life.

Just as Annie has given up and is about to leave, an unassuming, polite man arrives and asks to look at the house. Annie is keen to really leave and go and meet her boyfriend Luke for dinner but she decides that there’s no harm in showing him around. She has a good feeling about him, and feels like that maybe, he’s ready to buy and she can close the deal. Oh, how wrong she is. Annie is kidnapped by the man at gunpoint and bundled into his van. He takes her to an isolated cabin that he has ‘fitted out’ especially for her. She can’t escape, she can’t even access the stove or the oven, all the crockery is actually heavy duty plastic, furniture is bolted to the floor. Here, the man (the name he gives her at the house is David, but Annie begins to refer to him only as The Freak from her time in the cabin onward) plans to keep her, to be self-sufficient, to escape society. He rapes her, he beats her, he starves her, he acts out bizarre rituals with her, he enforces strict rules on her, he plays mental mind games with her.

None of that is a spoiler as the book begins after Annie escapes and is told through flashback in scenes with her therapist. We don’t ever hear from the therapist, it reads as if Annie is writing letter after letter, or speaking completely uninterrupted, like an internal monologue. She spares no details in these sessions and we are treated to the sheer horror that she experienced every day at the hands and will of The Freak. He kept her for almost a year and it’s a year that has scarred itself onto her psyche almost irreparably. Some months after Annie has escaped and is back in her own house, she cannot break the habits that The Freak enforced upon her, like only going to the bathroom a certain amount of times per day and at certain times of the day. Her body and mind has been so trained by him, by his will, and knowing what will happen when she breaks the rules, that even after she is free of him, she cannot be free of his rules. She is trapped mentally long after she has freed herself physically.

This book was one heck of a ride. It was absolutely engrossing from the start and I was sucked in only to be spat out again 4hours later feeling like I’d run a marathon. It’s disturbing, it’s cruel, it’s sickening, it’s disgusting and it’s also amazing. It’s a show of incredible strength and Annie is something to be admired. She’s a basket case but she’s a functioning basket case and she’s trying hard to be ‘normal’ again. It makes you wonder, with so many of these kidnapping cases reported in the media the past few years (the Josef Friztl case, the Natascha Kampusch case, the Jayce Lee Dugard case) you wonder how the victims cope with entry into the real world again. So much is made of their experiences during the kidnapping, and rightfully so, but I can’t help but wonder how the story goes for those victims after they are found/freed/etc. How do they cope with their new-found or returned freedom? This novel deals with that issue in a believable and heart-wrenching way. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be locked up in a cabin, raped repeatedly, beaten repeatedly but I have no trouble believing in the character of Annie, a woman who still sleeps in her closet weeks, months after her escape.

This book was really an up and down read and I can’t say I enjoyed it every step of the way. In fact it made me cry at one point but no matter how it made me feel, I still had to keep reading. A gripping, polished debut and I can’t wait for her next novel.


Book #77 of my 100 Book Challenge