A seventeen-year-old struggles to remember the tragic night that changed her life forever in this twist-filled debut novel of psychological suspense for fans of Sharp Objects and The Last Time I Lied.
Evie and her uncle Jim have just moved to an isolated cabin in a remote beach towna far cry from their hometown of Melbourne. But Evie isn't her real name. And Jim isn't really her uncle.
Jim tells Evie she did something terrible back home, that he's hiding her to protect her. But Evie can't remember anything about that nightfor all she knows, he's lying. As fragments of her memory return, she starts to wonder if Jim is really her savior...or her captor.
In a riveting novel that fearlessly plumbs the darkest recesses of the mind, J.P. Pomare explores the fragility of memory and the potential in everyone to hide the trutheven from themselves.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Twenty-six-year-old J.P. Pomare has been short- and long-listed for a number of writing prizes, including the KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award, Ellen Kemp Memorial Writer's Prize, the Sheila Malady Prize, and The Kingi Mckinnon Scholarship for Emerging Writers. He produces a literary podcast called On Writing, for which he has interviewed bestselling authors including Joyce Carol Oates and E. Lockhart. CALL ME EVIE, his first novel, will be published by Hachette Australia, Little Brown/Sphere in the UK, and Putnam in North America. Pomare lives with his wife in Melbourne, Australia.
Read an Excerpt
The green first-aid kit is open, with rolls of bandages, eye drops, butterfly stitches spilling out over the vanity like entrails. In my hand are the tiny pointed scissors. Before my eyes, they open and close and open and close. I can hear him coming up the hall. The door creaks.
"Jesus," he says. He palms his forehead.
I stop breathing.
"Put those down, Kate."
I toss them beside the sink and sit back on the stool with my arms folded.
His eyes roam over the floor tiles, the clumps of dark hair. "It's a real mess." He stands for a moment, before reaching in under the sink and pulling out the hair clippers. He plugs them in at the wall, and they purr to life in his hand. "Be still."
Blood throbs in my chest. The clippers sing closer. When the steel thrums against my forehead, I scramble up from the stool. My feet slip on the hair, and I steady myself against the door.
"Kate," he says. The clippers die in his hand.
I turn and run. The bathroom door whips closed behind me. I sprint up the hall and through the kitchen, sidestepping the island. It's only when he shouts that I realize how close he is. "Stop right now!" Never run, but it's too late.
I lunge for the front door, opening it inward. I twist through the gap and try to pull it closed but his fingers grip the edge, whitening.
I haven't thought this through. I haven't thought at all. Goose bumps rise all over my body. The towel slips from around my torso and pools on the concrete. Pulling with all my strength, I turn my head back and look about me. I could scream. Would anyone hear? The door is opening. If I ran would I make the road? What then?
"Let go of this door," he says, a sort of stillness on the surface of his voice. "You are only making it worse."
Squeezing every cell in my body, I wrench, imagining his fingers crushed against the frame, clipping off at the tips.
"Please," I say. My voice sounds so pathetic and high, I hardly recognize it. "Just let me go."
The handle slips from between my fingers. My body thumps against the concrete.
"Shit, watch your head," he says, rushing forward, cradling my skull in his hands. "What the fuck were you thinking? Look at you." His face hovers over mine. The concrete saps the heat from my skin. "Come on. Inside now."
"No," I say. "I want to go home."
He looks up toward the road, then back at me. The big wire-framed glasses have slipped down his nose and his cheeks glow red. His teeth are yellow; his voice is low and mean. "If you want to act like a child, I'll treat you like one." He snatches my head back by the remaining hair. The sound is cotton ripping in my skull. An electric shock shoots down my spine, poking between every vertebra to my hips and down the bones of each leg. I scrabble for purchase as he drags me with one hand knotted in my hair, the other under my shoulder. The concrete turns the skin over on one knee. Even though I know I shouldn't, I let out a scream.
I hear the sound first. A gunshot suddenness and my cheek is hot and numb. I look up and he's staring at his hand.
"I . . . ," he begins. His face is still red but the anger is draining. He exhales. "Just stop."
Size is important; the smaller I become, the less he can hurt me. "I'm sorry." My voice is a wind chime. "I was scared."
A tear of blood rolls down my shin, carving a path among the goose bumps. He crouches. Hauling me up, he folds me over his shoulder. Like that he carries my weak and trembling body back inside to the bathroom.
"That was a stupid thing to do, all right? Where were you planning on running off to like that in the middle of the day? They could be anywhere. They could be watching us right now."
I'm back on the stool and now when the clippers start, he positions his lean, muscled body between the door and me. I can feel the naked patch in my hair like a burn. The clippers are whirring again; he brings them up my neck. Vrrthonk. The steel teeth gnaw, catching a thatch of hair and jerking my head. Hair brushes my neck. It falls over my scarred thighs to the floor. He thumps the clippers against his palm, blows on them.
"It's too thick," he says.
I stare at the towel veiling the mirror. If I could reach it, pull it away, I would see that it's not real. I would know it's not happening. He runs the clippers through again, this time peeling the hair away from my scalp. A ribbon of it falls apart and strands stick to the dampness of my cheek. He flicks his wrist to whip the cord away. The molars at the back of my mouth are numb. I try to relax my jaw but I can't.
Arms first, then legs, then stomach, but my chest will not become still. It rattles, and within it my heart is the flickering pulse of a bird held in the hand. Can a heart give up? Slow down, seize its valves, and close like a fist?
"It's almost finished, darling. Please."
Vrrrthonk. The clippers tangle, clutch my hair like a fist, and pull. The skin of my thighs goes white beneath the grip of my fingers. This bathroom is smaller than the one at home. It's tacky and dated. This entire house is claustrophobic. Where the fuck are we? I could scream it and yet the headache looms, sharpening its teeth. And one thought rises through it all: He hit me.
Stepping back with one hand on his hip, he examines me.
"It will be fine." My voice is desperate.
"No, it's patchy, it's a mess. You look like a starved dog."
I squeeze my eyes closed and see a teenage girl. She's sitting on the edge of a bed. Then she slips to the floor, where she comes to rest. Her legs are tucked beneath her. Over her nose is a saddle of freckles. She rises with the boneless grace of a dandelion, tilts her head, smiles. It's the video of me. I'm reminded of why I ended up here.
I try to stand but his hand is heavy on my shoulder. It squeezes. I sit back down, tip my head forward, and close my eyes.
He takes most of what's left of my hair in his fist and picks up the scissors. "Almost finished. Just don't move for one more minute." As my hair falls around me, I imagine the scissors puncturing his trachea, lodging between a pair of vertebrae in his neck. These thoughts come and go as quickly as a sneeze. I remind myself of a time when I loved this man and feel sick with it.
"Oh," he says, letting the word uncoil like smoke from his mouth. "What have we done?"
In the shower, I'm still trembling with adrenaline as I watch the water chase the blood and nicks of hair down the drain. Up in the corners long-legged spiders dance webs on the avocado-green panels. The water pressure is weak and sprays with a panicked hum. Soon the water is cool, and when I shut it off I can hear the pipes shudder in the walls. I dry myself and pull the towel away from the mirror, standing before it. An invisible fist thumps my chest as, for the first time, I see myself.
You can never know the shape of your skull, not until you have peeled the hair away. Even then the skin, the shadows and light, marks and spots, can obscure the bone that lies beneath. Seeing it isn't enough because as with anything, what you see is not necessarily all there is. I almost don't trust my eyes. It's possible the cord stretching to my brain is knotted, or my brain may have a short-circuited connection or snapped synapse. I see only my skull. Closing my eyes, I squeeze a single tear out. I try to forget but the skin remembers, the fingertips remember. When I touch my shorn head I gasp. The thin layer of skin wrapping the bone cage of my brain is so soft and smooth, like the pink foot of a newborn. I can feel the shape, the planes and the curvature. But of course it's what lies within that is most important of all.
I think: What I know about the human skull, I learned because of him.
This is my first memory. I am in the bath at the old house, the house down in Portsea. Mum was sick and we had a nanny who would drift about the house, laying out my clothes for the day, ferrying me to childcare, spreading raspberry jam over my toast and deftly cutting away the crusts. Her name was Eloise. She was the first woman I wanted to be like.
I recall snippets of her time in the house and her abrupt dismissal. I recall Dad passing her in the kitchen, his hand grazing her spine. I remember all the time I spent nestled against her chest as she read to me on the couch while Mum was sick. And, of course, I remember that bath.
Dad would eventually organize to have the hot-water cylinder replaced, but back then the bath would only reach ankle-depth before the hot water ran out. Extreme emotions-rage, bliss, grief, ecstasy, agony-are amber; they preserve memories whole. I remember every detail of that time. I remember the gold locket that dangled from Eloise's neck as she bent to shut off the tap. I remember the cloying scent of the lemon bubbles.
"In you get," Eloise said, her voice sweet and light.
"It's still cold and empty."
She frowned and flattened the front of her blouse. "You don't need to stay in for long, Kate."
"I don't want to get in. It's too cold."
"Come on," she said. "Arms up." She pulled off my top, but when she went to pull off my shorts I held on to them and dropped to my knees.
"Kate, please. It'll only be for five minutes."
I let her undress me. She picked me up, deposited me in the water, then I screamed.
"Kate," she said with an owlish lean of the head. "That's enough."
I splashed water over the edge of the bath onto the floor as she left the room, then to stop my shivering I wrapped my arms around myself. When she returned, Eloise slipped and had to grab at the sink to keep from falling. She clicked her tongue. "You've got water everywhere."
"Do you want to get out?"
"No," I said. "Just make it warmer."
"There's no more hot water, Kate. We can't make it warmer."
"Dad makes it warmer."
"Well, I don't see how," she said. She was on her knees now, dragging a towel over the floor tiles.
"Dad heats the water up in a pot."
From her position on the floor she looked up at me. I splashed water at her. "Make it warmer!" I said. "Make it warmer!" My voice had become a shrieking demand.
She winced. "Okay, okay," she said.
She left the room again.
It seemed a very long time before Eloise returned, carrying a large steel pot. Steam drifted in her wake as she strode across the room and set it down on the wooden seat beside the bath.
"Okay, Kate, move your legs away so I can pour a little in." I drew my legs up to my chest and Eloise poured. A gust of steam rose as the hot water rushed beneath me. It was too hot but it quickly cooled. Eloise set the pot back on the seat. "Better now?"
"I'm still cold."
She tested the water with her hand. "You'll be fine. That's warm enough." She tucked a loose strand of hair behind my ear. "Can you just sit for a few minutes? I have to get your dinner on."
Leaving the door open, she walked away up the hall.
The water was still too cold.
"Eloise!" I called.
Gripping the edge of the bath, I stood and reached for the handles of the pot. It was heavy, almost too heavy for me to lift. Stepping backward, I dragged it over the lip of the bath. The water rocked within. The edge came to rest against my stomach. It seared. I fell back and a scream ripped from my throat as the pot tipped over my legs. I screamed and screamed as, beneath the surface of the water, blisters bubbled on my thighs.
Then Eloise was there, her hand covering her mouth, her eyes wide. She pulled me from the bath but the pain didn't stop. The screaming didn't stop. I thought it never would. A howl escaped that may have lasted seconds or minutes or hours. Hands holding me under flowing water. I couldn't distinguish hot from cold. A long throat-scorching vowel of pain. This is my first memory.
Out of Its Misery
In the past month, how often have you been upset or scared by something that happened unexpectedly?
0. never; 1. rarely; 2. sometimes; 3. often; 4. all the time
He is in the kitchen, thumping about. I've decided to call him Jim. The grinding of the juicer fills the house as the first piece of beetroot churns through. The carrots go in next, then small stringy mushrooms, a pair of Brazil nuts. The spout coughs out a foaming blood-rich concoction. When the juicer thunks to a stop, the classical music coming from the small stereo in the lounge can be heard again. He has made toasted sandwiches, crusts removed and cut into triangles. His glasses are on the island. I try them on but the world through them doesn't change. The lenses are just glass.
"Go on, darling," he says. "Eat."
I'm surprised by how my body responds, how quickly I wolf down the sandwiches. It's as though I haven't eaten in weeks.
"How do you feel?" he asks.
"You're doing really well."
"My hair," I say, looking up at him.
He sucks his lips, standing so close that I can see the tiny constellations of blood vessels in his cheeks, the pores of his nose.
He stirs a scoop of white powder through the juice and brings it over to me. I block my nose and take a long sip. The taste is earthy and bitter. I cough.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
With an unreliable narrator and a dual timeline, Call Me Evie is a psychological mystery/thriller that keeps you guessing until the last page. In fact, for most of the book, the author plays tricks on the reader to distract from the truth while also planting clues like breadcrumbs, redirecting the story back and forth while also keeping the general atmosphere of danger - and all I gotta say is 'Well Done!' So, the story goes like this: Kate aka Evie is currently being held captive by a man named Jim in a small town in New Zealand, because he says he is protecting her from something that happened back in Melbourne. She is allowed to go around the town, but only with him, and is being watched when he isn't around; she is also being forced to take some drugs while he says he is trying to make her better. She is essentially trapped and can't leave, and neither can she ask for help (in the start) from the townsfolk because the police would get involved. As the story progresses, we, the reader, piece together the events that led her to getting carried out of Melbourne, as well as who Jim is in her life. A lot of the book is about her being trapped in the house, not sure if she can trust Jim's version of events but can't rely on her non-existent memories either. The build-up of clues also points to a sinister motive for Jim to keep her captive, and the way he is paranoid about them being discovered but also her fearing police involvement point to a crime having being committed for which they are fugitives. The 'before' parts in the first half only set up characters, so it is a slow but tense progression in the first half, with the initial part of the second half sort of lagging (this was my one quibble with the book, which was otherwise hitting all the sweet spots of a mystery). The final quarter of the book, though, picks up the slack very well, and brings together the mystery of the crime as well as the events leading up to it. There were still a couple of things that I felt were never explained until the end (who picked up her call; who leaked the photos in the newspaper and why), though. My biggest surprise was Jim's identity, because yes, I got nicely led to a red herring (even though there were two big glaring clues in the middle; I am so ashamed I didn't catch them earlier!) and when it was revealed who he was, it was a whole shift in how I had perceived their interactions until then! And then that ending! It was *chef kiss* damn good because even with Jim's POV chapters, things weren't really clear (there was an unreliable narrator in more ways than one, I tell you!) and then it delivered that epilogue! Finally, all I can say is that while it has a good enough start and a slow middle, the ending makes up for it!
This was a book that had myself glued to the pages until that shocking ending when everything was revealed on what really happened to Kate before everything got totally messed up. With the story told in a before and after point of view from Kate's side of things, you get this picture of what Kate is dealing with in the aftermath of a night that just went wrong. But in the after, Kate can't remember anything and doesn't understand why she was taken from her home with a stranger. As we slowly get the full picture of why things happened the way they did, you will get this total shocker in the end that will explain everything in full detail and will leave you with your mouth on the ground. My problem with this book was how slow everything was revealed, it took until the last 100 or so pages for everything to fully make sense. It was a big shocker but I totally expected something else and it just goes to show how much your memory can change after a event like Kate had. I will say this though, after reading this one book by this Author who can make you want to just this book until that last page is done; is an Author that I'm looking forward to reading more by! Thank You to J.P. Pomare for this good thriller debut that turned myself into a fan of yours from this day on!! I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher! I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book from Edelweiss!
Call Me Evie, written by J.P. Pomare is dark psychological suspense that keeps the reader on the edge of the page. This book starts slowly, but with each turn of the page, it draws you in until you won't want to put this book down. There were multiple times while reading this book that I said, “What did I just read….what the heck is going on?” Call Me Evie is the first book by this author that I have read and it will not be my last. Call Me Evie is told in the first person point of view by Kate, a seventeen-year-old girl. She has found herself taken from her home in Australia by her Uncle Jim and brought to the small remote town of Maketu in New Zealand to help keep her safe and help her “remember.” The story bounces between the “After” and the “Before,” little snippets are revealed from the past, some of which seem true, but Kate can't be sure, she feels like her uncle is manipulating her memories, drugging her and telling her things that can't possibly be true. If Kate can't trust her memories how can we the reader trust her? And if her Uncle Jim is drugging her how can we trust him and what he tells Kate, which is just one aspect of this book that makes it such a compelling read. The “incident” takes on a life of its own, becoming a character unto itself which in turn entirely consumes both of these characters. The author does a fantastic job in developing both the main characters and also the supporting characters. I found my self aligned with Kate some of the time while reading this book but also could understand where her uncle was coming from in other parts of the book. This psychological thriller has everything necessary to keep you guessing until the very end. Call Me Evie is a complex well-written book, with twists, turns, deceit, and an intense, fascinating plot. I found it unbelievable that this was J.P. Pomare’s debut novel. I hope to read more from this up and coming author. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a smart, mesmerizing psychological thriller. ***I kindly received a DRC of this book by way of Edelweiss/publisher/author. I was not contacted, asked or required to leave a review. I received no compensation, financial or otherwise. I have voluntarily read this book, and this review is my honest opinion .***
Call Me Evie by JP Pomare is a highly recommended twisty psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator. Seventeen-year-old Kate Bennet is living in an isolated beach town in New Zealand with a man who she has to call Uncle Jim. He keeps telling her that he is trying to keep her safe; that the authorities are looking for her; that she needs to recover her memory and get better. She has been told that she did something terrible one night back home in Melbourne. She is to tell everyone that her name is Evie. Chapters alternate before and after; between Kate's memories of her past, with events leading up to her current house imprisonment as "Evie," and her present situation in New Zealand. Her past memories seem like that of a normal teenager. There have been some difficulties in her life, but she seemed to be handling everything fine. Her present circumstances seem illogical and sketchy. Jim is giving her some prescribed drugs to help her feel better and recover her memories. She doesn't trust him, but doesn't remember the events he claims lead them to hide out here. He claims he is just trying to protect her and they don't want "them" to find her whereabouts. Kate is desperate to find out what she supposedly did and get home to Melbourne. At the same time, Jim's paranoia and furtiveness is growing. This is a engrossing thriller that will hold your attention, if only to try and find out the truth behind Kate's tortured memory and her current weird imprisonment with Jim. Every character is unreliable in Call Me Evie so you aren't going to know who to trust. Kate's memory is fragile, but she seems like she is truthful. Jim seems sketchy, like he's hiding something, but he seems to want to protect Kate. Who can be trusted? Who is hiding the truth? What is the truth? When you reach the denouement, you will be shocked. Call Me Evie is a well-written debut novel and certainly a page-turner, making Pomare a writer to watch. The before chapters will actually hold your attention and keep you reading in order to understand what has happened in the after chapters. The after chapters move a little slowly and are written to be vague, with a repetition of feelings and actions. Additionally, a case could be made that some of the information that is withhold until the end could have been slowly released earlier in the after chapters. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.