Behind Her Eyes
BEHIND HER EYES is different. You may think that this deceptively simple novel by Sarah Pinborough is a romance --- that is, until it makes a number of slow twists and turns and becomes something else. It may require a suspension of disbelief due to a supernatural element that may be too much for some readers to swallow without warning. My recommendation is to open wide and take the medicine. You will be glad you did.
The story is told by Louise and Adele, who provide alternating first person narratives throughout the “now” of the book. Louise works as a secretary at a psychiatric practice. She has an adorable four-year-old boy named Adam whom she dearly loves, but also has some impulse issues that are fueled by fairly heavy alcohol consumption. While Adam is visiting his dad for a weekend, Louise hits the pubs and runs into a good-looking gentleman who seems genuinely interested in her. They have a round or two of kissy face before going their separate ways, leaving Louise just a little enchanted from this chance, brief encounter.
"[Y]our patience and indulgence will be rewarded in spades when you get to the ending(s), which will have you simultaneously swallowing your tongue and screaming."
However, Louise doesn’t have to wait long to see the dashing stranger again. It develops that he is Dr. David Martin and has just joined the practice where Louise works. David is getting a tour of the offices, accompanied by his wife, Adele, when Louise spots the pair. She manages to avoid them during their visit, but must confront David the following day --- his first real day on the job --- given that she has been assigned to be his secretary. They both agree that their actions from the previous weekend were a mistake and they will both move on. Shortly thereafter, though, Louise and Adele run into each other --- literally --- and Louise introduces herself as David’s secretary. The two have coffee and quickly become fast friends. Adele attaches one caveat to their relationship: She insists that David not know that Louise has been spending time with her.
Meanwhile, Louise, giving in to impulse and desire, fueled by proximity and, yes, alcohol, has picked up with David where they left off, and then some. Secrets abound within this very sharp-edged love triangle. Adele, as she reveals in her portions of the narrative, knows what Louise and David are up to. She not only continues to cultivate her relationship with Louise, but also tacitly enables David to resume his own. The question, of course, is why, but a bigger one is how she knows what she knows. Both questions are slowly answered in the intermittent “Then” sections of the novel, which documents David’s stormy history with Adele. There is much more to both of these people than Louise could ever think to guess. One of them is hiding a secret, revealed near the end of the book, which will leave you (and another of the characters) gasping.
BEHIND HER EYES asks its readers who are on the fence or outright doubters of the supernatural or new age advocacy to suspend their disbelief. I again urge those who find the concept hard to swallow to roll with it. It shouldn’t be that difficult at this point, considering what we are expected to believe in the name of entertainment. I mean, did you watch The Avengers movie? Or more than five minutes of The Matrix? I will tell you that your patience and indulgence will be rewarded in spades when you get to the ending(s), which will have you simultaneously swallowing your tongue and screaming. Seriously. You’ll be stuck in that nanosecond between seeing a car’s bumper slide up to you and the moment of impact for a long time to come after reading it.
Did I say this book was about a love triangle? That’s not quite accurate. BEHIND HER EYES is about a lot more than that. You may still trust people in your relationships after reading it, but you’ll also want to verify, at least to the extent that you’re able.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 2, 2017