The Winter Girl by Matt Marinovich
When I began this novel, I wasn't sure what to expect; I'd selected it based on the marketing blurb and mostly because, at the time, I had a hankering for suspense. In addition, it hadn't yet been compared to Gone Girl, which seems to be the current measuring stick for any and all novels in the suspense/psychological thriller category, so that was a huge bonus. It's not that I didn't enjoy Gone Girl, I just don't think that it should be the novel to which all other novels are compared.
The story is set in the Hamptons so I immediately imagined themes of "rich people behaving badly," which I love; however, it turns out that the two main characters have no money at all. In fact, they're both hoping that if they stay in the home they're in long enough, the owner will die and they won't have to leave.
Scott and Elise, a married couple, are staying in the home of Elise's father; he is dying (much too slowly for their taste) of cancer and Elise, who is the only gainfully employed one of the couple, felt obligated to leave her job and their NYC apartment to perform the role of doting daughter. It all seems rather mundane, other than the author's beautifully dark descriptions and this overlying sense of impending doom. It doesn't take long for the action to start rolling and then...whoa.
When it comes right down to it, misery is just another art form, as hard to perfect as any other craft, only we aim to leave nothing behind. We're the copper thieves of our own houses, ripping out our own wires.
Readers hear the story through the voice of Scott and are sort of kept in the dark, unknowingly, as is the narrator; he is caught up in his own depleted sense of self-worth and his desire to man up. His father-in-law is an imposing presence, even near death, and Scott constantly wonders what or who it is that his wife wants him to be; unfortunately, he's completely missing the big picture. The big picture includes the mystery of the home next door and the "winter girl" who, yes, is an actual person but I'm not going to give away any more than that.
For the first time in a year, a tangible moment of grace and forgiveness seemed possible, and I would lead us to that place. I could see it, like a sun-struck clearing in some woods.
Bottom line, this is tale of deep, dark, old family secrets and the manner in which they seem to turn up just when we think we've safely tucked them away forever. At just 224 pages, you can afford to sneak this one onto your list; it's a quick read and you'll fly right through it. You may also begin to wonder whether you should ask your spouse/significant other a few more questions about their past.
My wife didn't say anything. My wife was an absence. Elise, her name always reminded me of the word ellipsis, and the tiny dots that replace the dreadful secret.