Teri Coyne's first novel is a fast read, but far from an easy one. She has given her protagonist, Alex "Cat" Rucker, a slew of issues, and a storyline that's meant to force her to start confronting them.
Cat (real name Alexandra, nicknamed "Alley Cat" as a child, later shortened to "Cat") has spent the last ten years trying to leave her hometown and family behind. She's been in and out of college and a series of dead-end jobs, and the one constant in her life has been alcohol. But if you don't deal with your baggage, you just keep bringing it wherever you go. When she's called back home with the news that her mother has killed herself and left a suicide note addressed to Cat, the baggage comes along.
Her mom's final message, "He isn't who you think he is," could apply to several men in Cat's life, and could be literal or metaphorical. Cat's father, who is now in a coma, singled her out for unwelcome attention from the time she was a child. Her brother Jared, named after her parents' best friend, tried to protect her, but they haven't spoken in seven years. Addison, the son of the aforementioned best friend, has his own history with Cat, and the guy from the coroner's office seems to have known her mother surprisingly well.
Cat's a vivid character, one with a heartbreaking history and a frustrating present. I found her sympathetic, complex, and not always likable. Her way of dealing with the horror is not dealing, and while it's understandable in a lot of ways, it got tiring for me to keep seeing her getting close to something and then running away, sometimes literally and sometimes into a drunken stupor.Eventually she does push through, though, and it's rewarding. There's real hope for recovery and growth.
Teri Coyne reveals increasingly dark family secrets throughout this well-paced, fairly short novel, but I felt that she left some unanswered questions. For me, the biggest of these was exactly what motivated Cat's father to single her out for his abusive attentions - why not her sister, or why not both of them? And while I found Coyne's spare writing style appealing, and appropriate to the story she was telling, there were parts I would have liked to have seen fleshed out a bit more. Still, she has given us a suspenseful, character-driven page-turner, and I'll be interested to see where her writing career goes from here.