Friday, June 2, 2017

Book Review: The Day I Died

By Jami Deise

With such a provocative title, I was expecting that Lori Rader-Day’s latest offering would be along the lines of The Lovely Bones… a mystery narrated by a dead person. But the death in question is symbolic. LeeAnna Winger, an abused child who grew up to be an abused girlfriend, takes advantage of her boyfriend’s latest beating to crawl through the waters of the lake into which he’d deposited her, and begin her life anew.

Almost fourteen years later—after a life on the run with her now 13-year-old son Joshua—LeeAnna (now just Anna) has put down stakes in yet-another small town. She’s a handwriting analyst who works for the FBI and also answers letters from the lovelorn wanting to know the truth behind the scribbles of their sweethearts. When two-year-old Aidan and his mother disappear—and his nanny is murdered—the local sheriff enlists Anna to try to find out clues in the notes left behind by Aidan’s mother. While Anna attempts to solve that mystery, she also has to deal with Joshua becoming a defiant teenager—and demanding to know the truth about his father.

The Day I Died is an exhausting book. Its characters are all so tired… of life, of the small things that make up their day-to-day existence. Anna has a downstairs neighbor she barely knows, but who depends on her for rides to the doctor because there’s no one else. The guidance counselor is rumored to have a thing for small boys. And everyone blames Aidan’s mother for his disappearance – but Anna’s analysis makes her think that the woman was just another wife on the run from an abusive husband. Are these the white working class denizens who are dying in droves, whose addictions are ruining their lives? It seems like it. I wouldn’t want to live in small-town Parks, and experiencing it in a literary manner was almost as depressing.

Because the book is so exhausting, I found it tiresome to get through. While the details about Anna’s handwriting analysis were interesting, a lot of her observations seemed obvious. The pace is slow, and Anna’s preoccupation with Joshua keeps her from being fully emotionally involved in the investigation into Aidan’s disappearance. The book’s third act hinges upon a giant coincidence.

Still, the novel is well-written and Rader-Day’s portrayal of an abused woman and the shields she develops to protect herself is worthwhile. For that angle alone, the book may be worth a read.

Thanks to HarperCollins for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Lori Rader-Day:

1 comment:

Janine said...

Sounds like an interesting story.