For fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train: A dazzling work of psychological suspense that weaves together the past and present of two women’s twisted friendship.
Beautiful, creative, a little wild… Edie was the kind of girl who immediately caused a stir when she walked into your life. And she had dreams back then—but it didn’t take long for her to learn that things don’t always turn out the way you want them to.
Now, at thirty-three, Edie is working as a waitress, pregnant and alone. And when she becomes overwhelmed by the needs of her new baby and sinks into a bleak despair, she thinks that there’s no one to turn to…
But someone’s been watching Edie, waiting for the chance to prove once again what a perfect friend she can be. It’s no coincidence that Heather shows up on Edie’s doorstep, just when Edie needs her the most. So much has passed between them—so much envy, longing, and betrayal. And Edie’s about to learn a new lesson: those who have hurt us deeply—or who we have hurt—never let us go, not entirely…
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Outside my kitchen window the long afternoon empties of light. I look at London stretched out far below, my dripping hands held poised above the sink. The doorbell rings, one long high peal; the broken intercom vibrates. The view from up here, it’s incredible, as if you’re flying. Deptford and Greenwich, New Cross and Erith, then the river, and beyond that there’s the Gherkin, over there the Shard. From my top-floor flat here on Telegraph Hill, you can see forever and as usual it calms me, soothes me: how big it is, how small I am, how far from where I used to be.
The doorbell rings more urgently—whoever it is putting their finger on the buzzer and holding it there. The night hovers.
At first I used to see Heather everywhere. Connor too, of course. From the corner of my eye I’d catch a glimpse of one or the other of them, and there’d be that sharp, cold lurch that would leave me sick and shaken long after I’d realized that it had been an illusion; just a stranger with similar hair or the same way of walking. Whenever it happened I’d go somewhere busy and lose myself among the crowds, roaming the southeast London streets until I’d reassured myself that all that was very far away and long ago. A small West Midlands town a million miles from here. And the doorbell rings and rings as I’d always known it would one day.
I live on the top floor of a large, ugly Victorian building, and there are lots of us squashed in here side by side, in our small, drafty little flats. Housing Association, most of us. And when I wedge my door open with a shoe and go down to answer the bell, past four floors of white doors marked with brass letters, the early-evening sounds seep from beneath each one: a baby crying, a telly’s laughter, a couple arguing: the lives of strangers.
I’m entirely unprepared for what’s waiting for me beyond the heavy, wide front door and when I open it the world seems to tilt and I have to grip the doorframe to stop myself from falling. Because there she is, standing on my doorstep, staring back at me. There, after all this time, is Heather.
And I have imagined this, dreamed of this, dreaded this, so many hundreds of times for so many years that the reality is both entirely surreal and anticlimactic. I see and hear life continuing on this ordinary London street on this ordinary afternoon—cars and people passing, children playing down the street, a dog barking—as if from far away, and as I stare into her face the sour taste of fear creeps around the back of my tongue. I open my mouth, but no words come and we stand in silence for a while, two thirty-three-year-old versions of the girls we’d once been.
It’s she who speaks first. “Hello, Edie,” she says.
And then she does the unthinkable. She steps across the threshold (my heart jumping as she looms so suddenly close), wraps me in her arms, and hugs me. I stand there rigid, enclosed, as memories slam into me: the wiry feel of her hair as it brushes against my cheek, that weird fried-onions smell her clothes always had, her tall, heavy presence. My mind is empty. I am only my heart knocking in my throat, and now she’s following me into the hallway—no, no, no, this is just one of your dreams—and up the stairs, past all the other doors with their brass letters and their chipped paint, and we’re at the top and I’m watching my hand as it pushes open my door and we’re here inside my kitchen—no, no, no, no, no—and we’re sitting down at my table, and I’m staring into the face I’d once hoped never to see again for the rest of my life.
Neither of us speaks at first and I’m suddenly filled with longing for my quiet, solitary life within these three cramped rooms of just moments before. The tap drips, the seconds pass, the browning tendrils of my spider plant shiver on the windowsill. I get up so I don’t have to look at her, and I turn away and grip the work surface. With my back to her like this, I finally manage to speak. “How’d you find me, then?” I ask, and when she doesn’t answer I look back and see that she’s gazing around the room, peering across the hallway to the narrow lounge with its fold-down bed.
“Hmm?” she says vaguely. “Oh.” She looks at me. “Your mum. Still lives in your old place, doesn’t she?”
And I nod, although I hadn’t known, because Mum and I haven’t spoken in years and in that instant I’m back there, in the old Fremton house. We’re in the kitchen, the strip light flickering, the blackness outside making mirrors of the windows. I’m crying and telling Mum everything, every single thing about what happened that night, as if telling her might stop the screaming in my head, clear the pictures from my mind. I tell her about Heather and Connor and what they did, but it’s as if I’m telling her about some horror film or a nightmare I’ve had. I listen to myself say the words and I can’t believe that what I’m saying is true. I don’t stop talking until I’ve told her every last detail, and when I’ve finished, I reach for her, but Mum’s body is rigid and her face gray with shock. She backs away from me, and never, never again in my life do I want someone to look at me the way she does then.
When she finally speaks she spits out her words like stones. “Go to bed, Edith,” she says. “And don’t ever talk to me about this again. Do you hear me? I never want to hear about this again.” She turns her back, staring at the window and I see her pinched, awful face reflected in the glass. The next morning I get up before dawn, take some money from her purse, and catch the train to my uncle Geoff’s in Erith, and I never go back there again.
I’m stunned by what Heather has told me: that my mother had my address to give her amazes me. My uncle never knew what caused the rift between us and always hoped that we would one day reconcile, so the fact that he passed it on to her is no surprise. But that Mum had actually written it down and kept it safe somewhere is a revelation.
I feel exhaustion roll over me in waves, but still I force myself to ask, “What do you want, Heather? Why have you come here now?” Because I always knew, really, that this moment would come. Hadn’t I dreamed about it night after night, woken in the small hours sick with the fear of it, looked over my shoulder certain it was approaching, out there somewhere, getting steadily closer?
She doesn’t answer at first. On the table in front of her, she’s put her bag: a black woolen knitted thing with a chipped plastic button. Clinging to the wool are bits of fluff, crumbs, and lots of little ginger hairs; cats’ hairs, maybe. Her small hazel eyes peer at me beneath sparse pale lashes; she wears no makeup except for an incongruous smear of bright pink lipstick that looks as if it should be on someone else’s face. In the silence a woman’s voice drifts up to us from the street, “Terry . . . Terry . . . Terrrrrrr-eeeeeee . . . ,” and we listen to it dwindle and die, and at that moment the darkness over London pounces, that sad, final instant where daylight vanishes, the electric lights of the city suddenly strong, and I hear a faint tremor of hurt and reproach in Heather’s voice as she says, “Nothing. I don’t want anything. I just wanted to see you again.”
I try to make sense of this, my mind confusedly grasping at various possible explanations, but then she starts to speak again, and she says—with loneliness like an open wound, so raw and familiar that I have to turn my eyes from it—“You were my best friend.”
“Yes,” I whisper. And because I have no idea what else to do, I get up and put the kettle on and I make some tea while Heather talks, for all the world as though this were an ordinary visit—two old friends catching up: how she lives in Birmingham now (“we moved not long after you left”), the newsagent’s where she works part-time.
As she talks I take in little glances. Such an ordinary-looking woman. A little on the large size, her chubby hands folded in front of her on the table, her soft Welsh accent, her shoulder-length hair, her eager smile. “Do you still live with your mum and dad?” I ask, for something to say, falling in with the game she’s playing, if that’s what this is. And she nods. Yes, I think—it would be hard, even now, to imagine her coping without them. She was never stupid, Heather, not backward or anything like that—in fact, she’d always done well at school. But despite her cleverness, there’d always been an inexplicable something missing somehow, an innocence that made her vulnerable, too easily led astray. I sit down in the chair next to her. “Heather,” I say quickly, before I lose my nerve, “Heather, what do you want?”
But instead of answering she reaches over and taking me by surprise, gently pulls a strand of my hair between her fingers. “Still so pretty, Edie,” she says dreamily. “You haven’t changed a bit.” And I can’t help it: I flinch so obviously that I have to get to my feet, cluttering the tea things together in the sink, her eyes boring into my back.
“Can I see your flat?” she asks, and when I nod she goes and stands at the door to my tiny living room. I follow her, and together we look in at the cramped, dusty mess, the fold-down bed, the rail of clothes, the crappy, secondhand telly. “It’s lovely,” she says in a hushed voice. “You’re so lucky.” And I have to stifle a sudden desire to laugh. If you had asked me at sixteen what sort of person I would become, what sort of life my future self might lead, I would never have pictured this.
It occurs to me that she must have found her way to London by herself, and then made her way through the city to get here, and I’m both impressed and horrified by this. The thought hits me that she might expect to stay the night, and the idea is so awful that I blurt, “Heather, I’m really sorry but I have to go out. I have to go out soon and it’s been so nice to see you again, but I really do have to—”
Her face falls. “Oh.” She looks around the room wistfully, disappointment etched into her face. “Maybe I could stay here until you get back.”
She eyes my sofa hopefully and I try very hard to keep the panic from my voice as I lie, “I’m going away for a few days actually, with friends,” and I begin to steer her back toward the kitchen. “I’m sorry.” Reluctantly she nods and follows me to where she’s left her coat and bag. I watch her, my heart sinking, knowing I should relent. She’s only been here fifteen minutes after all. But I stand there as she puts her coat on, and I say nothing.
“Can I have your number?” she asks. “I could phone you and then next time we could spend the day or even the weekend together.”
There’s such longing in her eyes that I feel myself nodding hopelessly and she rummages eagerly in her bag. I watch her, my arms folded tightly, as she slowly punches my name into her mobile.
She looks up expectantly, but something in my posture or the angle in which I’m standing reveals something to her and as realization dawns, her mouth gapes. “You’re pregnant!” she says.
For the briefest moment I see something in her eyes that makes me shudder, though I don’t know why—just for a second something else peeps out at me from behind her hazel stare. My hands fly defensively to my belly and an image, gone almost before it’s there, of Heri’s face flickers across my mind. I don’t reply.
“Well,” she says after a silence, “congratulations. How lovely.” As she continues to gaze at me, her pupils twitch intently, and sensing that she’s about to ask more questions, I rattle off my number and watch as she punches it in, agonizingly slowly, until finally I open the door and say good-bye as warmly as I know how, and at last she turns to leave. But just before she does she pauses and says very softly, “Do you remember the quarry, Edie? How we used to go up there together, all of us?”
I feel momentarily light-headed, a wave of nausea washes over me, and when I speak my voice is barely a whisper. “Yes.”
She nods. “Me too. I think about it all the time.” And then, finally, she leaves, her sensible lace-ups clattering upon the staircase as she retreats lower and lower. I lean against the wall, weak with relief, until from far below I hear the front door’s heavy slam as she closes it behind her, like a jailer.
Year 11 leavers’ day, and everywhere you look girls are writing on one another’s shirts in felt-tip pen, drinking from Coke cans I think they’ve filled with something else, throwing flour bombs out of top-floor windows. I sit on the bench below the library window and watch. They’re all going up to the rec later to get drunk—I’d heard them talking about it in the loos. They hadn’t asked me, but I don’t really mind because Mum always worries if I’m back late. I see Nicola Gates over by the water fountain, but she turns away when I wave.
And that’s when I first see Edie, walking across the forecourt in the direction of the main doors. As I watch, her face appearing, then disappearing behind others in the crowd, she stops, her eyes squinting up at the building before darting around herself again and then finally landing upon me. I hold my breath. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so pretty before, not in real life.
Then there she is, standing right in front of me, and at first I’m too distracted by all the different parts of her to take in what she’s saying: the smell of the leather jacket she’s carrying over her arm, mixed with something else, something soft and appley, her eyes, big and golden brown with lots of black eyeliner, pale mauve varnish on her nails. In the hollow of her clavicle is a little gold locket with a tiny green stone in the middle. If you were to put your finger beneath it, you’d feel the jump-jump-jump of her pulse.
“Sorry,” I say. “What?”
She smiles. “The office. Where is it?” Her voice is clear and sure with a northern accent—Manchester maybe.
Of all the people she could have stopped to ask, she’d picked me. I get to my feet. “I’m going that way myself,” I tell her, though I wasn’t. “I’ll walk with you if you like.”
She nods, shrugs. “Yeah, okay. Ta.”
As we walk, I see Sheridan Alsop and Amy Carter standing by the water fountain. They stop talking and watch us as we pass. I have a mad impulse to link my arm through hers, this stranger who walks beside me, and I imagine us strolling along like that, arm in arm like best friends. How amazed Amy and Sheridan would be to see that! I don’t, though, of course. People don’t like it when you do that sort of thing, I’ve realized.
“My name’s Heather,” I tell her instead.
“I’m Edie. Well, Edith really. But how lame’s that?” She looks around herself and shakes her head. “Bloody hell, this place.”
“Yeah,” I say. “I know! Totally lame, isn’t it? Are you going to come to school here then?”
She nods. “Starting my A-levels in September.”
“I’m doing my A-levels here too! What’re you studying? I’m taking biology and maths and chemistry. I was going to do a language as well, but Mum and Dad said it was pointless because it’s not what I need to read medicine at uni. Best to concentrate on just the three. What with all my volunteering work and everything too. I’m going to be a doctor one day and—” I stop myself, my mouth snapping shut. I always talk too much, Mum says. I bite my lip, waiting for Edie to look at me the way the other girls do.
But she doesn’t, she just smiles again. Her long brown hair swings in front of her face and she pushes it away, tucking it behind her ear. “I’m doing art,” she tells me. “And photography. I’m going to go to art college in London. Saint Martins probably,” she adds with breezy certainty. And she explains that she’s just moved down here to Fremton from Manchester with her mum. She has this way of talking, as though she’s a bit bored by everything, looking around herself as if she finds it all a bit of joke, but all the while glancing back at me, including me as if I’m in on the joke too. It’s nice. I could stare at her for hours.
We’ve already reached the office, even though I’d taken her the long way round. “It’s in here,” I say, and I’m about to tell her that I’ll wait for her, that I’ll show her around after if she wants, but she’s already moving away. “Okay. Thanks, yeah?” she says. “See you later.”
The door swings shut behind her. Edie. Eedee. I turn the word over and over in my mind on the walk home, trying it out for size, tucking it away for safekeeping as if it were a precious locket on a fine gold chain.
“Heather . . . Heather . . . HEATHER!” My head snaps upward and I look around my bedroom in a daze. How long had it been this time? “Heather!” My mother’s voice, its note of irritation rising as she calls me from the kitchen, propels me to my feet. I look around myself for clues. I’m dressed in my school uniform, my bag of books by my desk. It’s light outside, but definitely an evening sort of light, I think. Slowly it comes back to me. It had been the last day of term before exams started. I had returned home from school and come up here to begin my revision and . . . it must have just happened, the way it sometimes does, and I never know why. Almost as though I fall asleep while I’m still wide-awake. It usually happens when I’m upset or angry, like the time with Daniel Jones, the boy who’d bullied me all through primary. I hadn’t even known I’d hit him till I saw the blood. A jumble of my classmates’ voices, past and present, crowd in on me, mingling to make one long mocking hiss. What’s wrong with you? Why do you stare like that? Weirdo. Fucking freak. I shake my head to clear it.
My dad collects clocks, and there are hundreds of them in our house all ticking at once, as if the air is shivering, chattering its teeth. I listen, and sure enough, after a few moments, there it is: the clanging jangle of dings and dongs as they all strike the hour at once. I count to seven. Tea time, then. My mother’s never late. The thought of her downstairs sitting at the kitchen table waiting to begin Grace jolts me into action. “Coming!” I shout. “I’m coming!”
Downstairs, Dad sits at the kitchen table reading aloud from a newspaper article about geological engineering. Mum moves around the kitchen not listening to him, transferring plates of food from the work top to the table in front of us. I watch her, trying to gauge her mood. Finally she puts the last plate down and without looking at me sits and begins to pray.
Sometimes Mum reminds me of the lake where we used to go camping back home in Wales. I’d wade through its water on hot summer days, suddenly chancing upon inexplicable pockets of ice-cold, before blundering farther into a shallower, warmer patch. I’d stay there for as long as possible, wallowing in the sunny warmth, until the touch of slimy seaweed or the thought of eels or dead fish slipping past my ankles would make me panic and press on. Being with Mum is like that sometimes: you never know where the cold pockets are, or what’s there waiting for you in the warmer spells.
“Heather!” My mother stops midprayer, and I realize too late that I’d been absentmindedly picking at the tomato salad.
“Sorry,” I say, and feel myself redden.
Sometimes I do this thing to help me sleep, pretend that everything’s as it was before, that I am six again and Lydia three, and we’re all still okay. I imagine Lydia’s hand in mine as we run together in the garden of our old house and hear her laughter as I fall asleep.
As if to rescue me from my thoughts, the face of the girl I’d met that afternoon pops into my head, and I feel a sort of light lifting in my heart. Edie.
Fremton’s a horrible town. I shouldn’t say that, but it’s true. We moved here from Wales when I was ten—a fresh start, Mum said. After what happened, people in our village I’d known all my life suddenly looked differently at me when I passed them in the street, or else swooped down on my parents like big black greedy crows, cawing sympathy, pecking for answers.
Eventually Mum and Dad stopped doing the things they used to do. Slowly, bit by bit, Mum pulled out of choir practice, her book group, organizing school fetes. Eventually, except for church on Sundays, she barely left the house. Dad carried on teaching at the boys’ school across the valley, but at home he found refuge in his study, mending his clocks and reading his books. I guess from the outside it might have looked as if we were shutting out the world to find comfort in each other, but it wasn’t like that at all. My mum and dad cleaved like a stricken tree, me like a lost squirrel hopping between the two halves. Dad had never looked at me in the same way after it happened and Mum didn’t either, but it was different with her. With Mum I knew in my heart that she wished it was Lydia who had come home safe and sound that day, not me.
So when they told me one evening after supper that Dad had been offered a new job in an English town a hundred sixty miles away, that it meant a promotion and a bigger house, I knew the real reason for the move: we would be going somewhere nobody knew about us, about what had happened, and what it meant. And a month later here we were. But nothing really changed, not really. My mum found a new church to go to, but apart from that she still hardly ever left the house. These days her focus is on me. My schoolwork, my weight, my piano practice, my future. She’s trying to make me better, I think.
Now that the exams are over, I have seven empty weeks to fill, so when I’m not helping Mum around the house or doing my volunteering work, there’s nothing much else to do but walk. Fremton’s right next to the motorway, so wherever you are you can hear it, the never-ending rush of traffic on its way to somewhere else. The whole town feels as if it’s been forgotten somehow, as if everyone upped sticks and left years ago. There’s a canal that runs through the middle, but no one goes down there very much and the shops in the square are mostly empty since the superstore opened on the Wrexham Road. There’s a big statue of a miner in the center of the square, carrying a sack of coals on his back, but someone’s spray-painted a big orange willy on his head. Then there’s just streets and streets of council houses till you get to the Pembroke Estate, three high towers pushed right up against the motorway, as if they’re standing guard, warning outsiders away.
Wherever I go I look out for Edie, scanning the faces I pass, hoping that one day one of them will be hers. I think about her smile and her brown eyes and how nice she’d been to me and I wonder what’s she doing and where she lives, whether she’s bored or by herself like me. And then, out of the blue, I see her again. I’m walking home through the square when I spy her sitting on a bench by the statue, smoking a cigarette. I stop in a shop doorway to watch her. She’s wearing a short denim skirt and her legs are long and tanned, stretched out in front of her, a silver chain around one ankle. Her hair hangs loose around her shoulders and she smokes her cigarette as though she’s deep in thought. She looks beautiful. It’s as if she shines against the grayness of this town, I think, as if she’s full of light. I hesitate and then half raise my hand to wave and I’m about to call her name when someone cuts across in front of me and reaches her first. My hand falls to my side, her name catching in my throat.
I can’t see him properly, whoever he is, this person who’s come between the two of us so suddenly. I only know that his effect on her is instant, her face and neck flushing pink, her eyes wide and bright. She listens to what he says, then laughs and glances away, but only for a moment, as though her eyes can’t quite help being drawn back to him. And then he sits down next to her, so close that their arms touch. He says something and she shakes her head, a smile still hovering on her lips, and I don’t know what it is, this strange heat that’s there in the crackling, held breath space between them; I only know that it has no place for me.
As quickly as it began, it’s over. He leans in close and murmurs one last thing in her ear that makes two red spots appear high on her cheeks; gets up and walks away and I have a clearer look at him now. He’s dressed in track suit bottoms, a zipped-up jacket with a hood. He’s twenty or so and very handsome, I suppose, though I don’t like his face at all, its roughness and its smile that shows he knows she’s watching him still. I wait for a few moments more, in the shadow of the shop’s doorway, before I take a breath and go to her.
When I’m there, standing in front of her, saying her name, she looks at me so strangely at first, as though she hardly knows where she is, tearing her eyes from his retreating back and blinking up at me. “Edie?” I say again, and the moment lengthens until at last her expression clears and she smiles and she says, “Oh, hiya! Heather, right?” and my heart somersaults with relief.
A new family’s moving into one of the ground-floor flats today. I stand by the window and watch them; a couple of teenage lads lugging furniture from a van, while a small ginger, tattooed woman shouts directions from the curb. As I watch, she raises her arm to point at something and her top rides up to reveal a long red scar running the entire width of her back, and I find myself wondering how she got it, what could possibly have happened to leave such an awful wound behind. Best part of an hour it takes them, the two, grim-faced boys towering over their mother as they traipse back and forth beneath boxes, a sofa, a fridge, watched all the while from the van’s front seat by a shining black lump of muscle and teeth that barks and barks and barks.
My hands fall to the warm curve of my belly. The decision to keep it, the baby, was never consciously made; I just never went through with getting rid of it. I got as far as making the appointment, to booking myself in at a clinic, but when the time came for me to put on my coat and take myself to the bus stop, I simply didn’t. My coat stayed where it was, I stayed where I was, and the seconds and minutes ticked by until the time had passed, my appointment had been and gone, and the phone with which I could call and reschedule remained untouched. I had never actively wanted a child—motherhood was something that happened to other women, not to me—yet some stubborn, unexamined part of me clung to the life growing in my belly, and it clung stubbornly to me.
The boys carry the last of the boxes from the van and are followed into the building by the woman and the dog. Within minutes I hear the sound of banging coming from the ground floor, the repeated thwack of a hammer echoing up the stairwell, and I stay where I am for a while longer, staring out at the street, watching the afternoon traffic pass until the hammering stops and the sound of a drill takes its place.
Heri, my baby’s father, was a chef at the restaurant where I waitress. Like me, he worked more and longer shifts than everyone else and we were often left to lock up together, sometimes sharing a beer after a long night. He would tell me about his home in Tunisia, about lagoons and deserts and the sirocco winds. I liked him; I liked that he didn’t push his nose into my life, never asked questions I didn’t want to answer, liked that he was always somehow self-contained and by himself, like me.
The night we spent together was not unexpected, but never repeated. An attraction that had always been there flickering into life one evening and, for no particular reason, acted upon. From the window of his bedsit you could see the floodlit grounds of Charlton Athletics Football Club. “You see!” he’d said proudly as we stood looking out. “The very best seats for free!” He’d shaken his head sadly as he added, “You English really can’t play football.” We drank beer and talked about our corner of London. The only possessions he seemed to own were lined up on the windowsill: a book, a metal tin, some writing paper and pens, a photograph of a woman with a small boy. His clothes were folded neatly on a chair, his bed a single mattress pushed up against the wall.
“You are a strange one,” he said, turning to me, his large, almost black eyes watching me in the half-light. “So beautiful, work so hard, so quiet.”
I continued to stare out at the illuminated pitch.
“You never talk about yourself,” he went on. “Why are you not married, not . . .” He shrugged, and when still I didn’t reply, he reached over and brushed a strand of hair from my face.
We undressed in the yellow glow of the floodlights, his skin dark and warm against my paleness; a night’s comfort. And afterward our friendship had continued exactly as it had before. When the day came for his wife and little boy to join him over here, I was happy for him and wished him well. He left the restaurant soon after for an office-cleaning job the three could do together and even after I learned I was pregnant the idea to contact him had never occurred to me.
And the child inside me grows. I don’t think about what will happen after it’s born; a strange calmness possesses me: what will be will be.
In the weeks following Heather’s visit, she phones me repeatedly, sometimes several times a day. I never answer. Instead I watch as my mobile vibrates and buzzes, the unfamiliar number flashing on the screen, my stomach twisting queasily. Sometimes she leaves a message, but I delete them all unlistened to. It’s six weeks before the calls stop abruptly one day. Life begins to return to normal, the water closing over the disturbance that she’d made, my pregnancy taking over my thoughts once more, leaving no room for anything else, not even her.
And then out of the blue like a carefully aimed dart, she pierces my life again. A few days after the woman and her two lads move in downstairs, I spot the postman approaching from my window and go down to collect my mail, expecting an appointment letter from the hospital. As I pass the new tenants’ ground-floor flat, I hear the sound of bolts being drawn and keys turning in their locks before the door opens a crack, stopped by a heavy thick chain. Someone peers out at me through the slim black gap as I pass. For a few seconds I feel myself being watched until the door closes again and I hear the locks turn and the bolts shoot home once more.
Among the scattered envelopes lies one that’s pink and square. I don’t remember ever seeing Heather’s handwriting before, but I know instinctively that it’s from her. The physical presence of it makes my scalp crawl, but I return with it upstairs, carrying it like some dead and rotten thing between my fingertips. There on my kitchen table it sits. I leave it unopened, curling up in a ball on my sofa, my legs tucked beneath me, my arms tight around my bump. The minutes tick by until with quick decisiveness I run into the kitchen, snatching up the envelope and tearing it open. Along with a piece of pink notepaper a photograph falls out, landing face down upon the floor.
My hands trembling, I pick up the letter and quickly scan the words. Dear Edie, it says. I’ve tried to phone you loads, but I think I’ve got the wrong number. Can I come back and see you? Here’s my number at the top. Please phone me. Lots of love from Heather Wilcox. XOXO. PS. I found this photo of us! LOL! You can keep it if you want!! X.
Eventually, reluctantly, I pick up the picture and look at it. It’s of Heather and me. I’m sitting in front of her by the quarry and I’m smiling up at the camera, holding my hand out as if to defend myself from its lens, my fingers a big pink blur in the foreground. Heather is looking away, staring off down the hill. I’m shocked at how childish we look, our faces plump and stupid with youth. But the picture’s not of us, not really. Even though he’s the one taking the picture, it’s of Connor. He is in the expression in my eyes and in the shadow that streaks across the grass between Heather and me. Connor. In my flat the walls feel a little closer, the air a little harder to breathe. A wave of nausea hits me and I have to run to the sink to vomit up the bile that floods my mouth.
Opening the kitchen window, I crawl out onto the flat roof of the neighbor’s bedsit below, gulping at the fresh air until the sickness begins to pass. Usually I love to sit out here, high above the city spread out before me in all its noisy, dirty glory, comforted by its vastness and indifference. It’s not true what they say about London, that it looks down on the rest of the country—in fact, London’s barely aware of the England that lies beyond its borders. In London’s self-absorbed bubble, towns like Fremton and all they represent barely figure, and that has always suited me just fine.
But now, even as the sickness recedes, I see only Connor’s face, the moment he’d first approached me in the square, and I feel a reflexive cold punch to my guts. I remember how the sight of him had made the rest of the world vanish, how immediate and physical it had all been. I had never seen anyone so beautiful. He’d asked me for a light, in that quiet voice of his that was like cigarettes, like syrup. Then he’d sat down next to me as if he didn’t doubt for a moment I’d want him to. I think he asked me what my name is, where I was from. It didn’t matter: all I knew was that I’d never ever seen eyes like his before; never in my life had I seen such beautiful green eyes.
I shudder. Far below me is the building’s communal garden, full of abandoned furniture and bags of rubbish. As I watch, one of the new lads from the ground-floor flat appears with his dog and it squats down next to a fridge freezer while he waits. The boy, seventeen or so, tall and well built, smokes a cigarette and fiddles idly with his mobile, oblivious of me up here looking down at him. I will be due at the restaurant soon and I need to catch the bus to another seven-hour shift, earning all the money I can before the baby comes. I make myself get up and, resolving to throw the letter and photo in the bin, crawl back through my kitchen window. But at the sight of them lying there on my table, I freeze and barely notice as I sink into a chair.
Beyond my window the light begins to change as the afternoon wears on, an ice cream van’s chimes jangle in the warm, close air, the school-run traffic picks up, slowly, rain begins to fall. But I’m only dimly aware of these things. Despite my best intentions I am entirely back there at the Wrexham Quarry, the night before I left for good, memories slamming into me one after another: the confusion and panic, the awful, terrifying screams as everything had spiraled out of control. Here in my flat the last seventeen years vanish, meaningless compared to the unforgettable horror of that night.
What does Heather want from me now? What could she possibly want from me now?
Heather seems to haunt me in the days and weeks that follow. I imagine I smell her sour, oniony scent wherever I go, I keep glimpsing her from the corner of my eye, or hear her voice among others in the street, causing me to turn sharply, seeking her out with a pounding heart, only to find that she isn’t there at all.
When my uncle Geoff phones one day out of the blue, I’m relieved almost to the point of tears when he tells me he’s coming round, so grateful am I for the distraction. He sits here now, filling my tiny kitchen with his comforting smell of cologne and cigar smoke, his broad Manchester accent familiar and soothing. I feel his eyes on me, watching me fondly as I make him some tea, and for the first time since Heather turned up again, I begin to relax.
“You all right, Edie love?” he says.
“Yeah, you know. Not bad.”
“Not long till the little one arrives.”
“No, not long now.”
He takes the tea I offer him and says, “Be the making of you, I reckon. You’ll be a great mum, you’ll see.”
I smile back at him, touched. “Thanks, Uncle Geoff.”
“Everything going well with that fella of yours, is it?”
I nod, and we drop each other’s gaze. He knows as well as I do there’s no fella on the scene, but he’s too tactful to say. I’ve always loved that about him, his unquestioning, steady support. I think about how he’d taken me in when I first arrived on his doorstep at seventeen, how kind he’d been to me, and the memory calms me and gives me strength.
When he leaves again a few hours later, I watch him from my window, setting off down the street, and my heart tightens with love for him. He’s nearly sixty now and I’d only ever known him as a bachelor, though Mum had told me he’d been married once, years before, to a woman who’d run off and broken his heart. He never speaks about her, but you can somehow see the memory of her there still, in his eyes and his smile, the way they do remain a part of us, those people who have hurt us very deeply or whom we have hurt, never letting us go, not entirely.
In the square, Edie shivers and stands up, squashing with her foot the cigarette she’d been smoking. “Where’re you off to?” she asks, and when I tell her I’m heading home she smiles and says, “I’ll walk with you.” And just like that, it’s as though the man, whoever he was and whatever went on between them, is forgotten.
“Great!” I say. “fantastic!”
She bends to pick up her bag, which makes her skirt ride up a little and show her knickers, and I quickly look away. “GCSE results will be in pretty soon,” I say hurriedly as we begin to walk. Her bare arm brushes mine, the fine hairs on both mingling briefly together.
“Yeah? How do you think you did?”
I shrug. “Okay, I guess. I was predicted ten A’s, so . . .”
She turns to me, wide-eyed. “Ten A’s? Ten A’s?” She whistles. “Wow, brain box, huh?”
I glance at her, trying to work out if she’s saying this in the same way Sheridan Alsop would, as though there’s something mystifyingly pathetic about me doing well at school, but then I see her admiring smile and my tummy dips with happiness.
“God, I wish I was clever,” she says a few moments later. “I did my GCSEs last year. Total disaster! Got to retake some of them while I do my A-levels.” I notice again how nice her voice is. Loud and clear and confident, her words spilling out quickly in her Manchester accent. She’s delving into her bag and eventually pulls out another cigarette. She lights it and offers one to me. “No?” she says when I shake my head. “Very wise. Wish I’d never started.” She laughs, a lovely, warm throaty sound, and says, “See? Not very bright, am I?” She walks as though she’s on springs, her long legs striding, her chin held high. I trudge next to her, feeling too hot, my thighs rubbing together.
Hesitantly I say, “I could . . . I mean, I could help you, if you want. With your GCSEs—your course work and stuff.”
She looks at me in surprise. “For real? That would be amazing!” She bumps her shoulder against mine. “Seriously, that’s really nice of you.”
I duck my head and bite my lip, trying to contain the smile that’s threatening to split my face in two.
We walk in silence for a while until, as we leave the square, she tells me why she moved to Fremton. “It’s my nan’s old place, but she died last year. My mum had a car accident and she can’t work anymore, so we moved down here to save on rent while she gets better.”
“Oh, I’m sorry about your mum,” I say.
“Don’t be,” she replies breezily. “She’ll be fine. She doesn’t care about me anyway, and neither does my dad, not that I’ve seen him for years.”
I’m shocked by her words, how casually she says them—I could never imagine speaking about my own parents like that.
“You’re easy to talk to, you know,” she says
“Yeah. Haven’t you noticed how most people when you’re talking to them are just waiting till it’s their turn to speak? You actually listen. It’s nice.” Her face darkens and she adds, “Not that I’ve had anyone to talk to since Mum dragged me away from all my friends—and she certainly doesn’t give a shit, that’s for sure.”
I don’t know what to say to this, and we walk in silence again, until we turn the corner into Heartfields, where I live, and she brightens again. “How about you, anyway? You lived here long?”
So I tell her about our old village in Wales, and how we moved down here, and though I don’t mention Lydia or the way my parents barely speak to each other anymore, I somehow find enough to say that we’re almost at my house before I realize I haven’t stopped talking once. “Sorry,” I say, putting my hand to my mouth. “I’m going on and on, aren’t I?”
She shrugs. “So?”
“Mum says you should only speak if you can improve upon the silence.”
“Yeah?” She raises her eyebrows. “Your mum sounds like a right laugh.”
“No,” I say, surprised. “No, she’s really not.”
And she smiles, but I’m not sure why.
“Come on.” She puts her arm through mine. “This your street, is it?”
I hadn’t expected Edie to actually want to come home with me, but she follows me up our front path and waits expectantly as I dig around for my keys. “Wow,” she says. “Nice house.” And as I look at her I suddenly see Edie through my mother’s eyes: the makeup and short skirt, the cigarette that she’s only now dropping to the ground. Sure enough, as soon as I open the door, Mum appears, stopping in her tracks in the hallway as she looks past me to Edie.
“Mum,” I say nervously, “this is—” But Edie walks in front of me, giving Mum a big smile. “Hiya, I’m Edie. I’m going to be starting at Heather’s school. Wow,” she adds, gazing around herself, “look at all those clocks. Bet you’re never late, are you?”
“Um, no,” my mother replies faintly as I grab hold of Edie’s arm.
“Come on,” I say, “let’s go to my room,” and together we run up the stairs, laughter bubbling in my chest, leaving my mum standing by herself in the hall, staring after us.
When I close my bedroom door, I look at Edie standing by my bed and feel suddenly shy. “I love your skirt,” I say at last. “And your hair.” I look down at my own clothes bought for me by Mum. “I wish I looked like you.”
“Don’t be daft,” she says, wandering over to my dressing table and picking up a tube of spot cream. “You should see me without my makeup.”
“I don’t wear any,” I admit. “I don’t know how to do it.”
“I can show you if you want.” She rummages in her bag and then pulls out some mascara and lipstick. “This is all I’ve got, though. How about you?”
I hesitate, not sure whether to show her at first, but I figure of all the things I could share with her, all the secrets I could reveal about myself, this one’s probably not the worst. I go and lift a shoe box down from the top of my wardrobe and pull off the lid. We both stare down at its contents: a mass of unopened lipsticks, mascaras, foundations, and eye shadows. I have everything, in every shade.
Edie whistles. “Wow. Where’d you get the money for all that?”
“I suppose I . . . well, actually . . . I stole them.” Even as I say the words, the feeling I get when I do it comes back to me: the awful, almost sickening fear of how terrible the consequences would be if I were caught somehow only making it more addictive. I never wear any of it, though—it’s as if I have no desire for it once I’ve slipped it up my sleeve in Boots.
She’s still staring at me openmouthed. “What, shoplifted?” She says it so loudly and sounds so scandalized that I glance at my closed door in alarm.
“Shussh!” I hiss urgently. Our eyes meet and though I have no idea why, we both burst out laughing. And pretty soon we can’t seem to stop. The laughter gathers and swells until neither of us can speak and finally I have to sit on the bed and hold my stomach, barely able to breathe. I have never laughed like this with anyone before. I don’t even know exactly what’s so funny. Edie flops down next to me and I look at her and I think, I love you.
“Come on,” she says, and, taking my hand, pulls me up off the bed and sits me in front of my dressing table mirror. She starts with my hair, picking up my brush and running it gently through my thick yellow frizz. I close my eyes. The touch of her hands on me, the slow, patient stroke of the brush, it’s all so wonderful, so lovely. I can smell the cigarette smoke on her fingers, a scent of apples when she moves. A hush falls. There’s only the ticking of the clocks beyond my closed door and the sound of the bristles against my scalp.
And into the silence, she says, “Did you see that lad I was talking to, in the square?”
I open my eyes. The brush stops. When I look up at her reflection, I find her watching me, waiting for a response. “Yes,” I admit.
“Had you ever seen him before?”
I shake my head.
“Me neither. He said his name was Connor.” And by the way she says it, I somehow know that she has longed to speak the name out loud, loves the shape and sound of it on her tongue.
There’s a silence. “He seemed to like you,” I offer at last, understanding that it’s what she wants, and instantly her face lights up.
“You think?” A strange half smile plays around her lips as she turns back to her reflection in the mirror, and I can tell that she’s no longer here with me, that it’s him in the room with her now, not me.
Even before we reach the top of the hill, we hear it: the screams and music and the dull roar of generators, loudspeaker voices, and a klaxon’s wail. And then, there we are, Edie and I, looking down at it all spread out below us, the colored lights and the Big Wheel and the people and the caravans and the stalls. A magical otherworld transported into the middle of Braxton Fields.
Edie nudges me in the ribs and I look down to see a bottle of vodka in her hand. I shake my head, but when she grins and thrusts it at me again, something makes me hesitate. Real life recedes and in its place I see spread out below me in the lights and music and laughter a million shimmering possibilities, and on impulse I take the bottle from her and swig it back, the liquid choking and burning my throat, making me splutter while Edie laughs. “Come on,” she says, and grabs my hand and we run down the hill together, to where the fair waits for us, the vodka trailing excitement through me like a firework.
I can’t believe I’m here, that my parents have let me come. I’d walked in on one of their arguments earlier, too excited by Edie’s phone call to notice the sound of voices hissing from beneath the closed kitchen door like a gas leak. I think Dad had let me go to make Mum cross. “For pity’s sake, Jennifer, she’s sixteen,” he’d said, and I had run to get my coat, not daring to catch Mum’s eye, my head already full of Edie and of what we’d do tonight.
And here we are, in the midst of it all: little kids with fluorescent rings around their necks, candy floss and giant cuddly toys and goldfish in bags, groups of lads with cans of beer and girls shrieking on the Hearts and Diamonds. A loudspeaker booms a thudding bass as we stand by a ride called Moon Rocket that sends a cage of screaming people soaring into the air. It’s amazing, the colors and noise and lights, but when I turn to Edie I realize that she’s scanning the crowds as if searching for something. “Are you all right?” I ask her.
She shrugs. “Yeah, sure. What shall we go on? Have you got any money?” Excitedly I pull out the handful of notes I’d grabbed from my savings box before coming tonight, and her eyes widen. “Christ, Heather,” she laughs, “you been robbing banks now too?”
We go on everything, running from ride to ride. I don’t mind paying for everything. I drink more vodka and I laugh and scream as if, were I to stop for a moment, the night might end, the fair and all its possibilities might vanish. But when I notice again Edie’s distracted expression, I understand with a stab of disappointment that it’s him she’s looking for, the lad from the square—it’s him who she came for tonight. And soon I’m searching him out too, in the gaps between the rides where the fair’s bright lights don’t quite reach, faces lingering in the shadows, mouths sucking on cigarettes and sipping from cans. Strangers’ eyes flickering back at us, but he’s not there.
The last ride we go on is the Waltzers and we spin round and round, the speed and the motion have Edie sliding along the plastic seat toward me. I feel her softness and her hard angles as she lands against me, catch the scent of her hair. We’re dizzy when we get off, giddy and disorientated and laughing, but I look up and there he is. Standing with some other lads a few meters away down by the side of the Dodgems, huddled over something that they’re passing between them, it’s him. He’s half turned away from us, but it’s definitely Connor, and in that second he looks up, his face flashing red, yellow, purple, green, his eyes scanning the crowds before landing on Edie, dark and steady as the barrels of a gun.
I try to steer her away, but I’m too late. I look up to find her eyes locked on his and it’s as if he’s a magician, a hypnotist, the way she goes to him, as though sleepwalking, as though the rest of the world and all its light and music has disappeared. I trail after her and just before she reaches him I pull on her arm. “What?” she says, without looking away from him, without dropping his eyes, even for a moment.
“It’s late,” I say. “I better go home.”
“Okay,” she says, already moving off again. “I’ll see you later, yeah?”
“Aren’t you coming?”
“No.” She shrugs off my hand, and I feel a sharp slap of rejection. “Go home,” she says. “I’m staying here.” And she moves away, to where he’s waiting for her. For a moment I watch her go before I turn back through the crowds alone.
Excerpted from "Watching Edie"
Copyright © 2016 Camilla Way.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
Readers Guide (discussion questions)
1. WATCHING EDIE alternates between Edie and Heather’s perspectives. Edie’s perspective is from the present as an adult while Heather’s is from the past as a teenager. Why do you think the author chose to write from two different perspectives and time periods? Did you identify with one character more than the other?
2. Both Edie and Heather have complicated relationships with their mothers whose guidance, or lack thereof, directly impacts their decisions. What do you think this says about the dynamic between mothers and daughters? Do you think that Edie would have been a good mother to Maya?
3. Heather calls Edie cruel because of what happened with Connor. Do you agree with that assessment? How would you classify Edie’s treatment of Heather in other moments of their relationship?
4. A case can be made that both Heather and Edie are Connor’s victims. Do you agree? Does that change how you view their actions?
5. The story explores different kinds of love, including the love between mothers and daughters, between romantic partners, and between friends. How would you describe Heather’s love for Edie?
6. Over the course of the novel it becomes clear that neither Edie nor Heather has been completely honest. Why do you think the author chose to make both main characters unreliable narrators? What role do you think truth plays in this story?
7. By the conclusion of the novel Heather reveals how angry she is with Edie for what happened when they were teenagers. Why do you think Heather helps Edie when she is suffering from postpartum depression? What is her motivation?
8. The clocks that Heather’s father maintains are mentioned throughout the novel. Heather explains that although there are so many clocks in their house, for her and her family, time freezes after Lydia’s death. When Heather’s parents separate, her father stops winding the clocks and Heather mourns their silence. What do you think the clocks signify? What do you make of Edie’s reactions to the clocks?
9. Monica’s offer of friendship is a turning point for Edie. Edie closed herself off emotionally after what happened with Heather and Connor, yet Monica remains open even after the abusive relationship with her husband. Why is it important that Edie tries to save Monica? What makes this situation different from what happened with Heather?
10. Female relationships are obviously the focal point of this novel, but the male characters are inextricably involved in the plot and in influencing Edie and Heather’s actions and decisions. What are the different ways in which Connor, James, Phil, Heather’s father, and Edie’s uncle impact Edie and Heather’s lives?
11. Monica's sons Ryan and Billy are from a troubled background yet still grow up loving and grounded. How do they compare to Connor and his friends? Why do you think Connor turned out the way he did, and what do you think was his ultimate motivation regarding Heather?
12. Edie’s art can be seen as a symbol of her potential and as a means for her to escape her unhappy life. Why do you think Edie stopped drawing? Why do you think she starts again when James and Monica come into her life?
13. Edie is willing to sacrifice herself to save her daughter’s life. Do you think that Edie has redeemed herself by the end of the novel? Were you satisfied with the ending?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Keeps you guessing to the end. Perfectly suspenseful and wonderfully written. I read a lot of stories that claim likenesses to Gillian Flynn. I think this story outdid Flynn in terms of unpredictable endings.
Friendship....forgiveness....humans....pride.....betrayal....selfishness.....envy.....worship...desire to please others. Edie and Heather hit it off right away when they met. Heather had never really had any friends. She couldn't believe that Edie chose her, the beautiful, popular, self-absorbed Edie. I recall my nephew saying that girls always look for another girl who is not as pretty as them, weighs more, and doesn't attract attention like them. They choose a girl who will make them look better to others, especially to boys. They are looking out for number one. The chosen ones work hard to please this girl, this unexpected friend, but can they? Can they ever really please this popular, beautiful "friend"? All the way through the story, I wondered what had happened and who had participated in the big event at the quarry? The story centers on this unforgettable event that took place at the quarry many years ago, while Heather and Edie were in high school. It was confusing to me that the author chose to have the book constantly speaking in Edie's voice about the "after" and Heather's voice speaking about the "before". I found myself having to look back to see who was "speaking" through out the book. I think this may be a big turn off to this book, particularly for any readers who have difficulty in reading. I found myself invested in the story and while I figured out a part of the reveal of the "event that happened at the quarry", I was surprised by much of the ending. This will hold readers attention and many readers may not find it confusing to switch voice with every chapter. They may not care as much as I do about knowing important details of the mechanics of books. I am rating this book 4 stars and recommend it to readers who enjoy psychological thrillers. I received a copy of this book from netgalley and HarperCollinsUK. I was encouraged to write a review if I chose to do so.
Throughout the book, I was trying to figure out what Edie did to Heather. I never imagined it would be as personal and horrific as it was. It was probably the only time in the book that I felt sorry for Heather. Other than just pitying her for being her. Great read, I loved it!
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Creepy! Told from two different perspectives but also in two different ways one is before and one is after. Edie narrates the story after and Heather narrates before. The reader doesn't know what event is deeming it before or after and unfortunately it isn't revealed until the end, making the lead up slow and sometimes painful! First there is Edie. She is telling the story that takes place after this "event" and her side of the story I had this feeling that I was being watched the entire time. It was almost like watching that horror movie and you say to the screen DON'T OPEN THE DOOR! I was worried about Edie and her new baby and very untrusting of this Heather character.
Watching Edie is a standalone, psychological thriller written by Camilla Way. Themes threaded throughout this story include trauma, substance abuse, postpartum depression, domestic violence, and mental illness. Overall, I liked this book. I enjoyed the psychological aspects more than the thriller parts. There was a whole lot of leading up to the "secret" that caused each of these characters to grow into their present-day selves and it felt like a long wait. However, Ms. Way did a great job showing how harmful toxic relationships can be and that element tells a life lesson in itself. Check it out. My favorite quote: "He never speaks about her, but you can somehow see the memory of her there still, in his eyes and his smile, the way they do remain a part of us, those people who have hurt us very deeply, or who we have hurt, never letting us go, not entirely."
I signed up to review Watching Edie when I saw it compared to The Girl on the Train (even though I haven’t read that book yet). So I can’t tell you how the two are the same but I can tell you that this is a good read. I started and finished this one in one day so if you’re looking for a quick weekend read, this is it. It was bit disorienting at first to have the after (now) narration done by Edie while the before (the time they spent together as teens) was narrated by Heather. However, after a few switches, I figured it out. We spend the entire book trying to find out what Edie did to Heather to cause her such mental issues. When we finally do find out, it’s pretty gruesome and explains a lot. However, I have to defend Edie a bit as she was an abused, neglected girl who partnered up with the wrong guy. I don’t know how I would have acted in her situation but I can’t say the right response would be so easy and clear. Watching Edie brings to question the issue of whether children can be inherently evil or if they’re a product of their environment. It also points out how one’s teenage years really do sculpt a person’s adult life. With the bullying that goes on everywhere, we have to wonder what’s going to happen to the kids that slip through the cracks. I received this book as part of my involvement with Netgalley. All thoughts are my own.
Creepy. So. Very. Creepy. Have you ever gone to an amusement park during Halloween? You know how they always have some dark labyrinth type set up where people in horrific costumes jump out at you unexpectedly and scare the living crap out of you? This book is like that. Except you’re in the labyrinth for hours, seeing faces everywhere, and as time passes and no one has jumped out at you, the tension builds up almost unbearably, and the longer you wait, the more you imagine the terribleness that awaits you, and when it finally arrives…it’s pretty much as bad as you expected. Except the monsters aren’t exactly who you thought they were. Edie and Heather were friends in high school until something horrible happened. We don’t know what or to whom, only that their friendship was immediately severed and Edie ran away to live with her uncle. Fast forward 15+ years later and Heather shows up at Edie’s front door. Edie has been expecting it – and dreading it – for years. From that moment forward, her whole world starts to unravel. Will she ever feel safe again? My anxiety level was through the roof with this one. I read most of it last night, finishing a little after midnight, and afterwards, I couldn’t sleep. It’s nearly 2pm the next day, and I can still feel myself coming down, my nerves were ratcheted up so high, my emotions so stirred up, that I’m still trying to shed it all. Intense. And creepy. And thought-provoking. And emotionally heavy. The most intense thing I’ve read all year. I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
One of the most interesting elements of this story is the fact the author hasn’t created a black or white situation. There are many shades of grey, and in this case those shades relate directly to whether the characters are good guys or bad guys. The truth is, there is no clear answer to that question. The reader feels sympathy with Edie, because of the hard situation she finds herself in. She is a single woman, who is about to become a single mother. When the baby does eventually arrive she is overwhelmed and clearly needs a friend. Heather seems like the great alternative to a support system, despite the troubled past she and Edie share. Seems like the perfect solution. Edie needs help and Heather wants to help. Does she really want to help though? Heather has a tendency to stalk, get violent and blackout. She is creepy and clearly unstable. Would you want her to take care of your newborn baby? Throughout the book Edie has flashbacks to a time when she and Heather were friends and also to some terrible event that ended said friendship. What it comes down to is who you think is guilty of the greater crime or wrong-doing. There are things that are unforgivable or so inhumane that they leave a deep dark stain on anyone involved in them. Some wrongs can never be righted. Watching Edie will make you question everything and everyone. It is a nicely paced and well-developed psychological thriller, and despite the fact the reader can probably guess the traumatic secret the two of them are hiding, it is still a compelling read. *I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.*
Watching Edie is a thriller. I enjoyed every page, some of the more than others. The characters of Edie and Heather were not characters that I could relate to or feel something for. I am not exactly sure why as they were both realistic. They were teenagers with home lives that were not “normal.” The parents of these girls brought them up with high expectations, no or little support, and other family issues. While I don’t always believe parents are responsible for their adult children they are responsible for their teenage children. These parents pushed their teenagers to act out and this caused their adult lives to not be good. I did enjoy that the book was written in two timeframes. Heather’s story is told from the past. Edie’s is the current story. I liked that I knew why their relationship is how it is. I also enjoyed how Camilla Way didn’t just spill all the secrets right in the beginning and pulled the story out until the very end of the story. There were times that I had guesses as to what the fall out between the two of was. The twists and turns were wonderful. Keeping me guessing, keeping me reading, keeping me turning page after page. I believe that every book has its readers. This one will have some that love it and some that don’t. Watching Edie is not a book for everyone.
I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review This is an outstanding psychological thriller that focuses on three women who have been abused physically and psychologically by people they had loved and trusted. The unlikely, but once very close school friendship between the beautiful, popular Edie, and the chubby, maladroit Heather is long past. The story begins with the reappearance of Heather in Edie’s life: “as I stare into her face the sour taste of fear creeps around the back of my tongue … we stand in silence for a while, two thirty-three-year-old versions of the girls we’d once been”. Throughout the book there are hints about the devastating Incident that shattered their friendship and drove them apart and away from home when they were teenagers. Both girls are obviously traumatised by what happened in the past – but what actually occurred does not become truly understood until right at the end. Occurrences (except the Incident) from their past and present lives are narrated by both Edie and Heather, so we know what they believe happened (is happening). But there are two sides to the truth, and your sympathies become troubled and eventually ripped apart, as the story keeps you guessing right to the end. Following the birth of her daughter, Maya, Edie is alone and suffering from severe post-natal depression. Despite her initial concerns about Heather’s reasons for contacting her, Edie has no other option but to take Heather’s offered support. The third woman in this story is Edie’s downstairs neighbour, Monica. Monica and her two teenage sons are hiding in fear of her dangerous and abusive former husband. Heather takes over the care of Maya, and Edie and Monica tentatively get to know each other. But there is always a menacing undercurrent, that you can’t quite put your finger on. The book is brilliant in its depiction of the far-reaching effects of a number of really important issues affecting women, such as post-natal depression, loss of a family member (through death or abandonment), parenting, psychological abuse and violence, betrayal, mental health, and the importance of good friendships. Nothing is over-simplified or trivialised and at times the fear and anguish that the characters are feeling is palpable. “Watching Edie” takes you on an emotional roller-coaster that you will not easily forget.