book review: Without You by Saskia Sarginson

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(Source: GoodReads)

This is a really powerful and gorgeously written novel by an author I was unaware of until now. Since I love discovering new authors, this was a win win – now I can go buy everything else she’s written…

In Without You, Sarginson ruminates on the debilitating nature of grief and the different ways we all express it. After a boat accident leaves 17-year-old Eva lost at sea, her family struggles to adapt to the ‘new normal’. Her parents war with each other, each wanting different things from their future without Eva. Her younger sister Faith remains convinced that Eva is alive – and being held on an island not far from their home on the Suffolk coast.

And Eva? Well, Eva is alive. Captive to a tortured man named Billy, Eva is being kept chained on the very island that Faith has set her sights on – and she has no way of escaping. (This isn’t a spoiler, by the way – it’s right in the book summary!)

As her family fractures and Faith hatches rescue plans, Eva attempts to figure out why she is being held and what Billy wants from her. Their relationship evolves to a point that is almost intimate, odd (or not) considering the situation – and it’s apparent that no matter what happens, Eva will be changed forever.

 Not just a simple suspense novel, Without You is also a family drama and a well sketched and complex portrait of what I would call Stockholm Syndrome. I felt devastated for Eva at every turn, with each part of her that is turned inside out, disassembled and put back together.

The girl who was found on the island will never return – not truly, not completely. That is the true tragedy and the dark heart at the centre of the book, thrumming with its quiet ferocity and painful realism.

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