Author: Laura Lippman
Release Date: September 2010
Publisher: William Morrow Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction; Thriller
Rating: 4.0 out of 5
Summary: Eliza Benedict cherishes her peaceful, ordinary suburban life with her successful husband and children, thirteen-year-old Iso and eight-year-old Albie. But her tranquility is shattered when she receives a letter from the last person she ever expects—or wants—to hear from: Walter Bowman. There was your photo, in a magazine. Of course, you are older now. Still, I'd know you anywhere.
In the summer of 1985, when she was fifteen, Eliza was kidnapped by Walter and held hostage for almost six weeks. He had killed at least one girl and Eliza always suspected he had other victims as well. Now on death row in Virginia for the rape and murder of his final victim, Walter seems to be making a heartfelt act of contrition as his execution nears. Though Eliza wants nothing to do with him, she's never forgotten that Walter was most unpredictable when ignored. Desperate to shelter her children from this undisclosed trauma in her past, she cautiously makes contact with Walter. She's always wondered why Walter let her live, and perhaps now he'll tell her—and share the truth about his other victims.
Yet as Walter presses her for more and deeper contact, it becomes clear that he is after something greater than forgiveness. He wants Eliza to remember what really happened that long-ago summer. He wants her to save his life. And Eliza, who has worked hard for her comfortable, cocooned life, will do anything to protect it—even if it means finally facing the events of that horrifying summer and the terrible truth she's kept buried inside.
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed I'd Know You Anywhere and found it difficult to put down. It's a riveting psychological thriller that begins slowly, but the tension builds continuously as the novel progresses. Laura Lippman cleverly contrasts the quiet, safe and ordered days of Eliza's current life with the story of her kidnapping and the chaotic days she spent with Walter more than 20 years ago. She emphasizes how little control Eliza had over her life at that time and how scary it must have been, not knowing what was going to happen next. As the story of adolescent Eliza's kidnapping draws to a close and we know she'll be with her family soon (the story goes back and forth between past and present), Walter is putting more and more pressure on adult Eliza to communicate with him from behind the bars of his prison cell.
Ms. Lippman is very talented at creating complex and interesting characters. The main character, Eliza, is reserved and introspective. At first she seems very passive-aggressive and I was irritated by her behavior several times because I thought she was letting people take advantage of her. But as I got to know Eliza better, I realized she just doesn't permit most things to bother her. She tends to think things over before reacting to them and takes whatever time she needs to figure out how she feels. Eliza only gets upset and reacts strongly when she thinks her children or her family's security is threatened.
I liked seeing Eliza when she was fifteen. Although she suffers from some of the usual teenage angst: popularity, boys etc., she also seems confident and comfortable with herself. In Walter's custody she displays a remarkable ability to understand him and tell him what he wants to hear. Rather than acting scared and whimpering, Eliza is very matter-of-fact and quiet, observing her surroundings and listening carefully to Walter. She's able to respond to Walter in a way that keeps him calm and relaxed. Eliza displays the same intelligence and strength she relies on the first time she's with Walter to help her cope when he reappears in her life.
Walter is the other really interesting character. The author succeeds in making him both charming and repulsive. Walter's never had friends and has lived a lonely life garnering our sympathy for him. But since he's attractive and knows how to be kind and personable when he needs to be, he's able to attract people, especially young girls. Walter is also manipulative and becomes very angry when he doesn't get his way. As Walter's story progresses it becomes obvious that the very reasons we sympathize with Walter are his excuses for his behavior. Ms. Lippman has created a three-dimensional human monster in Walter.
Combining the two main characters, both fascinating and complex, with a gripping story (with some tangents to keep things moving), makes this book a successful endeavor by Ms. Lippman. To create a character like Walter is nothing short of the literary equivalent of keeping many plates spinning on poles at once. Evil incarnate one moment, worthy of feelings of sympathy the next. Eliza is no less a wonder but for different reasons, as the Ms. Lippman is able to maintain the characters integrity throughout the years. Like the book's title, because of the care and detail the author has invested in them, it seems we would know these characters anywhere.
Ti who blogs at Book Chatter lent me her ARC copy of I'd Know You Anywhere. Thank you Ti!