Two days after my father had a massive stroke my mother shot herself in the head. Her suicide was a shock – not the fact that she killed herself but the way in which she did it. It was odd that my mother chose such a violent end to her own violent life. For someone who had endured years of torture at my father’s hand, I thought she would choose a more quiet way of leaving. Perhaps she would take pills and put herself to bed in a silk nightgown, or she’d walk naked into the ocean at sunset. Instead, she cleaned the house, changed the linens, stuffed the freezer full of food, and blew her head off with my father’s shotgun.
Alexandra “Cat” Rucker is the hard drinking, deeply disturbed protagonist in this story of pain, redemption, forgiveness, and more pain. Cat left home ten years ago, leaving behind a violent house of misery and anguish. She doesn’t intend to ever come back. But with her father in the hospital, and her mother dead, she is drawn back by her mother’s suicide note…”Cat, He isn’t who you think he is. Mom xxxooo”
That the note is specifically written to her, not to her brother or her sister, brings Cat home. She is physically incapable of going 6 hours without getting drop-down drunk, unless she’s completely passed out. Her brother and sister seem to have their lives relatively together. Both married, both trying to figure out what a healthy, normal family might possibly look like, they seem to be the ones who are comparative successes. And yet, her mother wrote to her. What Cat cannot figure out is, who is the ‘he’ in the note. Her father, who beat and molested and terrorized the family for years? Her mother’s ex-boyfriend, whose son came and lived with them and who was the one she truly loved and wanted to be with? Or the ex-boyfriend’s son, who has come to live with Cat’s family, with his charming ways of winning over the entire family, father, mother, sister, brother, all but Cat, who trusts no-one. Or maybe, someone else instead?
These are the mysteries that Cat has been left to figure out. And perhaps she can, if she can stay sober and face her ghosts for more than 5 minutes at a time.
I found this book at Powell’s books in Portland this summer, and though it took me awhile to pick it up, when I finally did, I couldn’t put it down. Cat is such a tortured soul, and her story is so vividly told, that while you may disagree with some of her decisions, your heart goes out to her almost immediately. I liked this book enough that I gave it to a good friend as a Christmas gift. She was a bad girl and opened it before Christmas, and admitted to me that she finished it before Christmas as well. She couldn’t put it down. Really, really good stuff. I’m looking forward to more from Teri Coyne.