“ Genre: Fiction / Author: Amanda Eyre Ward / 272 pages / Book published 2011-03-11 by HarperPress „
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On the night their mother was killed, Alex and Lauren were asleep in the treehouse that their father had built for them in the back garden. Not long after, their father was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of their mother.
Twelve years later, Lauren is working as a real estate agent and finds it difficult to love and her brother Alex is still trying to understand and find out exactly what happened that fateful night, when both his and Lauren's idyllic childhood was shattered.
Only one stranger, a pregnant woman on the run from her boyfriend in Colarado, holds the clues that can help Alex and Lauren make sense of what happened.
Close Your Eyes begins in 1986 as the start of the book whisks you back to the day Alex and Lauren's mother is found dead inside the family home. Told from Lauren's perspective, the day seems a little hazy, as some of the horror of that day has been blocked from her memory. Her last memory is that of her father being taken away in a police car.
It is then fast forward to 2010. Lauren and Alex are grown up now and making their own lives, but whilst Alex believes their father is innocent, Lauren refuses to accept this and won't have anything to do with the man she idolised as a child. Although as brother and sister they have remained close, Lauren struggles with other relationships in her life particularly with her partner Gerry.
After the initial few pages drew me into the story, I began to lose interest in the pages that followed, however there is something about the prose of this book and the way in which the author writes throughout, that kept me interested and turning the pages. Although there was nothing tense or exciting about the story itself, I found the way the characters were developed and described to be enough to hold my interest as well as the emotional honesty of it all. In particular, the character of Lauren is laid bare and I found empathy as well as a need for closure as much as the character does. Indeed I felt this was the key to my overall enjoyment of this book.
Just as I found myself wondering if the story was going to pick up pace a little the character of Sylvia is introduced in the second part of the story and the focus is switched to her character's point of view. Sylvia is 41 years old and pregnant and leaving her partner Ray behind, she is on a bus bound for Denver. Sylvia is going to look up her friend Victoria, whom she feels sure will welcome her and help her. After all, Sylvia has always been there for Victoria when she needed her. However, things don't exactly go to plan and Sylvia finds her past is catching up with her also.
How the two parts of the story come together is cleverly done and slowly I came to understand where the story was going, after becoming a little confused for a moment or two beforehand. It does actually begin to pick up pace from this point and there is a twist or two along the way, as the story spins its web around the characters, drawing them all together. Secrets from the past begin to unfold and it made for interesting reading, as the truth about the circumstances leading to the death of Lauren and Alex's mother is eventually uncovered.
Whilst Close Your Eyes is not an intense pacy thriller, it is still a fairly gripping read particulary towards the latter half of the story and at 251 pages, it isn't overly long or drawn out.
The author has developed characters which I thought I would find irritating at first, but instead I felt empathy and found I cared about what happened to them. An example of this was with the character of Lauren as she makes visits to a therapist. At this point I began to lose interest in her character which seemd to be too self-centred for my liking and I felt sorry for her long-suffering partner Gerry and her brother Alex, having to deal with her negativity on a day to day basis, which worsens when Alex decides to go and work in Iraq. However, as the story unfolds, my thoughts shifted to those of sympathy for someone who has been unable to really move on in her life and is now worried that something terrible will also happen to her brother.
Close Your Eyes is actually based upon a true story and overall it is a story of a family tragedy, revenge and a search for the truth. It is the way this book is written which makes it an absorbing read and although I wouldn't describe it as a book I couldn't put down - as I did put it down several times - there was something compelling about it which made me pick it up again and want to finish it. The story itself whilst not gripping, has intriguing qualities which the author can take much credit from, as her writing style is excellent and reminds me a little of author Maggie O'Farrell. I am sure fans of Maggie O'Farrell's work will enjoy this book.
Overall, Close Your Eyes is a haunting tale of a life of regret and redemption that has left me wanting to read more of Amanda Eyre Ward's work.
Hardcover: 251 pages
Publisher: HarperPress; First Edition edition (3 Mar 2011)