Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lessons in Psychological Fiction

Lately, I seem to be reading a lot of books that build suspense while placing the protagonists in very uncomfortable positions.  These are the books that make one wonder, "What would I do if I were in that situation?"  The overarching theme of the next three books are people who are trying to survive those situations and then, more importantly, to move on.

I just finished Emma Donoghue's newest novel, Room.  This is not a happy-go-lucky story by any stretch of the imagination.  Five year-old Jack and his mother, who is referred to as Ma throughout, live their entire lives confined within Room.  Their supplies come from "Old Nick" who stops by a few evenings a week.  Both Jack and Ma are scared of Nick and they try to keep him happy by asking for very little in the way of supplies each week.  Ma won't even let him look at Jack.  This book builds the suspense to such an uncomfortable level.  Just when you begin to put the pieces together, you wonder if you actually want to put it all together.

There are a lot of similarities between Room and Still Missing by Chevy Stevens.  Annie O'Sullivan has escaped from her captor, whom she dubs "The Freak."  She recounts the whole harrowing experience to her therapist and, even though we know she has managed to escape, the reader's heart breaks as Annie tells of all the horrible things that happened during her captivity.  The main character is very believable as she we go through her conversations with the doctor as sometimes she wants to discuss certain matters at other times does not.  As psychological suspense goes, this one was hard to put down.

I mentioned Fragile by Lisa Unger in a previous post and it definitely works in this genre as well.  Another of Unger's works, Black Out, is another good candidate.  Annie Powers has put her previous life behind her and lives happily with her family in Florida.  Of course, Annie isn't her real name.  Her real name is Ophelia.  And Ophelia has many dark secrets that Annie has tried to hide.  A dangerous figure from her past seems to have returned and Annie does not know how best to deal with the situation.  To make matters worse, she finds that other people may know about her past.  Some of whom are very close to her.

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