I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on February 14th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Mystery, Suspense
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Megan Abbott meets M.O. Walsh in Christine Lennon's compelling debut novel about a group of friends on the cusp of graduating from college when their lives are irrevocably changed by a brutal act of violence.
For two decades, Elizabeth has tried to escape the ghosts of her past…tried to erase the painful memories…tried to keep out the terrifying nightmares. But twenty years after graduating from the University of Florida, her carefully curated life begins to unravel, forcing her to confront the past she’s tried so hard to forget.
1990s, Gainesville, Florida…
Elizabeth and her two closest friends, Caroline and Ginny, are having the time of their lives in college—binge watching Oprah, flirting for freebies from Taco Bell, and breaking hearts along the way. But without warning, their world is suddenly shattered when a series of horrific acts of violence ravage the campus, changing their lives forever.
Sweeping readers from the exclusive corners of sorority life in the South to the frontlines of the drug-fueled, slacker culture in Manhattan in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, when Elizabeth is forced to acknowledge her role in the death of a friend in order to mend a broken friendship and save her own life, The Drifter is an unforgettable story about the complexities of friendships and the secrets that can ultimately destroy us.
The Drifter was a dark and thought provoking novel that took me a very, very long time to get through. The unrelated details throughout this novel added realism to this novel in a way that made this book perhaps a little too real for me and resulted in many “breaks”. The details evoked personal feelings that were perfectly related to the experiences of the three young friends Caroline, Betsy and Ginny who, although completely unalike, were best friends until the shining future of all three women are changed by one horrific night. I felt connected to the characters by virtue of experience from my own university days. My university days were not spent with sorority friends or even really socializing – but I do remember the excitement and expectation of Frosh Week and drunken nights spent in my mid-20s during a time when I still had absolutely no clue who I would be in life (and lets be honest, the only thing that has changed since those days is my excessive drinking habits!). The Drifter is written in a way that anyone can relate to characters that, written by another author, would be completely unrelatable.
Regardless of what other reviewers have said, the enormous amount of “useless” detail I’d learned about the daily life of our narrator only ensured that the ending of this novel could be understood on a deeper level. The mundane details that made this novel an woefully long read also made me love this novel – the characters, situations and their reactions were real thanks to the realism developed from all the boringly mundane details included by our narrator. I don’t think the ending would have been as powerful without he long, plodding journey.
The summer in the early 90s that changed everything was just like any summer in the early 90s. The life of our narrator is destroyed and is forever slightly off axis until she can confront what really happened all those years ago.
My only complaint about this novel upon completion is the thematically depressing and dark narrator who, in the beginning is struggling to ‘fit in” and then spends several decades hiding a secret that slowly tears her sanity apart. The dark and twisted road that Betsy takes towards becoming a healthy individual after her friend is murdered was both difficult to read, and frustrating. I saw enough in Betsy to relate to her plight, but not enough to understand why she would keep such a secret for so many years. I also found it difficult to understand how anyone would continue to be in her life during her spiraling mental state, but perhaps Betsy was a better actress than she gave herself credit.
In the end, The Drifter was a depressing and beautiful novel about friendship, personal discovery and the deeply scarring effects of losing someone as a result of murder. Although many cannot understand the anguish of losing someone in these circumstances – I felt Lennon created a realistic and captivating narration of Overcoming and Acceptance.
I would not suggest reading this novel if you are looking for a quick read. The novel drags and spends enormous amounts of time describing Betsy’s life before and after the murder, her life’s development over twenty years and highlighting her deteriorating mental state. Very little happens for most of the book in terms of moving the plot along. The murder of her sorority sister is the major event of this novel, yet when we learn about the murderer and his fate, it is a side line to the drama of Betsy’s life – which hijacks the rest of the novel until the surprising conclusion. I expected the murder, the catching of the serial killer and the eventual closure for Betsy and those affected would be the focus of this story – but it isn’t. The focus of The Drifter is on a specific person and the effects of violent and unexpected crime has on her life.
Was The Drifter worth reading? Yes. Was is dark, depressing and emotional? Absolutely, but it was also inspiring to see the strength of friendship and the perseverance of the human condition.
This book will appeal to readers who enjoy psychological dramas, novels with deep meaning and rich character development. This novel is dark and deals with sad/uncomfortable situations that can be often difficult to read due to the exceptionally subversive writing style. I would recommend this book to readers seeking a “meatier” read with intense meaning and dark subject matter.
**Side note: The Drifter is in part based on true college murders and the author’s own experiences in a sorority.