Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Dead Friend Sarah

My Dead Friend Sarah by Peter Rosch
CreateSpace, 2012
Paperback, 228 pages
ISBN-13: 9781475198232

Mere months into recovery, Max, an alcoholic with twisted control issues, meets Sarah — the same woman that for years he's habitually dreamt will die after a botched abduction. "Doing the next right thing," a popular AA phrase he's picked up in the rooms, means befriending Sarah long enough to warn her and hope she takes him seriously. But when Sarah falls in love with Max, his newly sober thinking drives him to choose his overly devoted wife, and he abandons Sarah — even when it condemns her to death. When Sarah goes missing, the NYPD suspects Max's dream may have been a pre-crime confession. The truth, all of it, lurks inside of Max, but only by drinking again does he recapture the nerve and clarity vital to free his wife, sponsor, and himself from a life imprisoned by lies.

My Thoughts:

My Dead Friend Sarah by Peter Rosch is really about Max, a recovering alcoholic who is having repeated dreams about a woman being kidnapped and dying. He discovers the woman accidentally on the streets of NYC and begins clandestinely following/stalking her, sure that his dreams are a premonition of the future. He finds out her name is Sarah and ends up striking up a relationship with her, only to break it off in favor of his wife, Rachel. This doesn't stop Max from still following her, thinking he is protecting her. The novel opens up with Max reporting his reoccurring dream to the police.
The beginning chapters of this mystery alternate between Max and Sarah. Max has an addictive personality and may be an unreliable narrator. He is an alcoholic, struggling with recovery in AA, keeping contact with his sponsor, Sam, and striving to tell the truth. Sarah, who keeps herself distant from other people, is a suicidal events planner who has been going to therapy for years. Both of these flawed characters like to think that they can control the actions of others.
The story itself is compelling and a quick read. The inside information about AA becomes an integral part of the story. It also becomes clear that while Max has a goal of always telling the truth, he may be struggling with that as much as he is with maintaining sobriety.
There are a few flaws. While the chapters alternate between Max and Sarah at the beginning, if you aren't paying attention, you might miss this since they are written in exactly the same manner. It might have been nice to have more differentiation between their voices. There were a few grammatical errors which I could easily overlook since I considered them part of a conversational style of writing, but they might really bother some readers.
highly recommended

“So, I don’t suppose you just want to tell me you did it, where and how—I mean you can leave out the why part. Save that for the twisted boob tube talking head who stands to gain financially off of your killing Sarah. Me? I just want to get out of here in time to go pick up my kid. I’m asking a lot of you to just admit it, confess, so I can go about living a normal life today.”
It was a compelling request from a man of physically diminutive stature, that sank in slowly, slower than all the new words he threw at me after taking a sip of his coffee. Location 9-13; opening 
“Fine Max. You know, we get a lot of crazies come through these doors, more than our share. And I want to believe that a guy doesn’t visit the police to outline what he is going to do to his victim months before doing it, just to get caught after the fact.” He paused as if to make way for the much bigger point he thought he had coming. “But you knew, and I think know, more than anyone about what has happened to Sarah, and claimed to have known it weeks before it ever happened.” Location 27-30
Ask my wife what she fears the most, and I’m pretty sure she’ll tell you something along the lines of this: to not be able to reason with someone or something. If she doesn’t know you well, she will probably just say zombies. But at the root of that zombie fear is the idea something could exist that there is no reasoning with. In other words, there is no talking a zombie out of eating you. Or she might say: to not be believed or trusted by the people you love even when you are telling the absolute truth. The latter fear is relatable to the first certainly, and closer to my own heart. I’ve always wanted to be believed, ironically even as I knew myself to be a liar. And as fears go it seemed pretty on point at that moment.
To know that your reality is just that, and have others dismiss it as fabrication or fairy tale no matter how hard you try to demonstrate or explain it, weighs heavy on a soul. Over time if you start believing what you know to be true is the lie everyone else paints it to be, the real madness begins. Location 49-56

My name is Max, and I’m not a writer by trade so forgive me for not putting the entirety of our situation more eloquently: I’ve prayed I’m mistaken, but at some point in the next few months Sarah will be abducted and shortly thereafter, dead. And I’m done trying to stop it. Location 83-84

This morning can’t be the last I see of Sarah. And I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not—Sarah will die after a botched abduction attempt later this year. I feel this to be certain. But as of this morning, as I stated, I will no longer be doing anything to try and stop it. Location 131-133
I would say anyone who only thinks they know me, for the last two years of my life anyway, might say, “Sarah has got it all figured out.” During that time I’ve tried to keep my own ugly business a private affair.
My perfect little life: good job, my own apartment, friends, and a social existence—albeit a mandatory one.
I’ve spoken openly about killing myself to certain people most of my life. Various doctors, therapists, and my father have all heard that plan beyond once or twice. Basically I told anyone who I thought might truly listen, or maybe believe it, except Max. Hysterical really, as Max might have been the only person who would have actually listened, but I never mentioned suicide to him. And I don’t think he has ever suspected nor seen the darkness inside me, and maybe that’s because when I’m around him it’s never been easier to put aside. Location 144-151

This would be the only time, sans alcohol to boot, I would intentionally make the first move in the ritual of making a new friend. And so wandering around behind a woman I had previously only met in a dream, while trying to construct a fool-proof plan to make her my friend, in an effort to save her from dying sometime in the future, seemed just shy of normal behavior. I didn’t mention it to my sponsor though, and since it was a secret, I knew it wasn’t normal. Location 280-284
And when she finally, maybe, just possibly came around to starting to appreciate me, her words from the many years before rang too loudly to ignore and betrayed her. “Letting someone in, truly into your world, seems a beautiful thing until they use that gift for something ugly, you’ll see.” Location 327-329 |

She glanced down at my wedding ring. I had taken it off and stuffed it in my pocket every other time I’d followed her on the off chance we’d finally connect. Location 486-487

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Netgalley for review purposes.

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