A woman is forced to question her own identity in this riveting and emotionally charged thriller by the blockbuster bestselling author of The Good Girl, Mary Kubica
Jessie Sloane is on the path to rebuilding her life after years of caring for her ailing mother. She rents a new apartment and applies for college. But when the college informs her that her social security number has raised a red flag, Jessie discovers a shocking detail that causes her to doubt everything she’s ever known.
Finding herself suddenly at the center of a bizarre mystery, Jessie tumbles down a rabbit hole, which is only exacerbated by grief and a relentless lack of sleep. As days pass and the insomnia worsens, it plays with Jessie’s mind. Her judgment is blurred, her thoughts are hampered by fatigue. Jessie begins to see things until she can no longer tell the difference between what’s real and what she’s only imagined.
Meanwhile, twenty years earlier and two hundred and fifty miles away, another woman’s split-second decision may hold the key to Jessie’s secret past. Has Jessie’s whole life been a lie or have her delusions gotten the best of her?
Our property is fringed by trees so that as we sit on the deck’s edge, Aaron and me, it feels as if we’re all alone, partitioned from society by the lake and the trees. If we have neighbors, we’ve never seen them. Never laid eyes on them. Never spied another home through the canopy of trees. Never are we disturbed by the sound of voices, but only the colloquy of birds as they perch in the trees and yammer back and forth about whatever it is birds talk about. On occasion the helmsmen will wave a hearty hello from behind the steering wheel of their sailboats, but more often than not they’re too far away to see Aaron and me at the dock’s edge, feet dangling southward, holding hands, sitting in silence listening to the breeze through the trees.
We’re marooned on an island, stranded and shipwrecked, but we don’t mind. It’s just the way it should be.
Aaron’s work shift begins at two in the afternoon and ends when the last customer leaves and the kitchen is clean, most nights stumbling into bed around midnight or after, smelling of sweat and grease.
But the days are ours to do with as we please.
Last week, Aaron repaired the greenhouse door and we stripped it of cobwebs and bugs. We spent days cultivating the garden and Aaron made good on his promise of raised beds, three feet by five feet by ten inches deep, made of white cedar that will one day house cucumbers and zucchini. But not this year. It’s far too late in the season to grow produce this year and so for now we buy it from any number of tatty roadside farm stands. We live two miles from town and even though the population around here expands sevenfold in the summer months thanks to a healthy tourist population, outside town it’s still mainly rural, long stretches of open country roads that intersect with nothing but sky.
Instead of planting produce this year, Aaron and I sowed perennial seeds to enjoy next year: baby’s breath and lavender and hollyhocks because all the fences and cottages around here, it seems, are flanked with hollyhocks. We placed them in peat pots of gardening soil in the greenhouse and set them in the sunniest spot we could find. In a month or so, we’ll transplant them to the garden. They won’t bloom for some time, not until next spring. But still, I stand hopeful in the greenhouse, staring at the peat pots, imagining what might be happening beneath the soil’s surface, whether the seeds’ roots are taking hold, pushing down into the soil to anchor the seedling to this world, or if the seed has merely shriveled up and died in there, a dead embryo in its mother’s womb.
As I clear out the last of my birth control pills and run a hand across what I imagine to be my uterus, I wonder what is happening inside there too.
I had Mom cremated at her request. I carry her around now in a rhubarb glazed clay urn with a cork in the top, one she bought for herself when the cancer spread. It’s cylindrical and inconspicuous, the cork stuck on with an ample amount of Gorilla glue so I don’t lose Mom by chance.
Mom had two wishes when she died, ones she let slip in the last brief moments of consciousness before she drifted off to sleep, a sleep from which she would never wake up. One, that she be cremated and lobbed from the back end of the Washington Island Ferry and into Death’s Door. And two, that I find myself and figure out who I am. The second hinged on the esoteric and didn’t make obvious sense. I blamed the drugs for it, that and the imminence of death.
I’m nowhere near accomplishing either, though I filled out a college application online. But I have no plans of parting with Mom’s remains anytime soon. She’s the only thing of value I have left.
I haven’t slept in four days, not since some doctor took pity on me and offered me a pill. Three if you count the one where I nearly nodded off at the laundromat waiting for clothes to dry, anesthetized by the sound of sweaters tumbling around a dryer. The effects are obnoxious. I’m tired. I’m grumpy. I can focus on nothing and my reaction time is slow. I’ve lost the ability to think.
Yesterday, a package arrived from UPS and the driver asked me to sign for it. He stood before me, shoving a pen and a slip of paper up under my nose and I could only stare, unable to put two and two together. He said it again. Can you sign for it? He forced the pen into my hand. He pointed at the signature line. For a third time, he asked me to sign.
And even then I scribbled with the cap still on the pen. The man had to snatch it from my hand and uncap it.
I’m pretty sure I’ve begun to see things too. Things that might not be real, that might not be there. A millipede dashing across the tabletop, an ant on the kitchen floor. Sudden movements, immediate and quick, but the minute I turn, they’re gone.