St. Martin's Press: 3/4/2014
Hardcover, 304 pages
I know her inside out. I know what she’s thinking, I know what she wants. So I can’t give up on her, she knows I never will.
Some friendships fizzle out. Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last forever.
They met in high school when Rachel was the shy, awkward new girl and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Instantly, they fell under one another’s spell and nothing would be the same again. Now in their late twenties Rachel has the television career, the apartment and the boyfriend, while Clara’s life is spiraling further out of control. Yet despite everything, they remain inextricably bound. Then Rachel’s news editor assigns her to cover a police press conference, and she is shocked when she arrives to learn that the subject is Clara, reported missing. Is it abduction, suicide or something else altogether?
Imagine discovering something about your oldest friend that forces you to question everything you’ve shared together. The truth is always there. But only if you choose to see it. In Colette McBeth's Precious Thing.
Precious Thing by Colette McBeth is a psychological thriller that is highly recommended.
It is September 2007 and Rachel Walsh begins writing a letter to her very best friend, Clara O'Connor, in the opening of Precious Thing by Colette McBeth. Then the narrative jumps back in time to January 21st, the day Rachel, a news reporter living in London, travels to Brighton to cover the disappearance of a 28-year-old woman. Unbeknownst to Rachel, the missing woman turns out to be Clara, her childhood best friend. What on earth could have happened to Clara? It's true that the young women haven't done a lot together recently, but a friendship as strong as theirs is can survive anything, can't it?
Rachel writes: "SEPTEMBER 2007 Officially, I don’t think of you anymore. I am one hundred percent focused on the future. When anyone asks how I’m doing—and they do regularly—I’m fond of using the terminology of war—it adds drama don’t you think? I am conquering my demons; I am battling the dark thoughts that have been twisting inside me. Sometimes, if the situation lends itself to it, I’ll lean forward, fix them with a steely look and say with as much reverence as I can muster: I am a survivor, I will beat the past. In return I get a sympathetic nod, a concerned smile. I can almost hear the whissh of relief blowing through them. I can see the checklist of worries being ticked off in their minds. She’s making progress." Location 20
As Rachel clearly states for the reader the whole novel is a letter from her to Clara, telling their story, from her point of view. Rachel not only covers what is happening currently, but also tells us what has happened in the past and her perception of events. Rachel and Clara met in 1993 when they were 14 and 15. Rachel was the new girl at school and she and Clara immediately hit it off. They were fast friends until Clara was hospitalized in a psychiatric institution seven years ago. After that she traveled before returning home. Even through Rachel and Clara have gone their separate ways, their friendship is the kind that endures forever. Clara's disappearance is mind boggling.
Rachel writes: "I don’t blame you for thinking otherwise. I blame the people who’ve poisoned you with their lies. But listen to your heart. Trust your instincts. Think of the beautiful, precious thing that we have shared. Know that something so pure could never be bad. That’s why I’m writing to you. So you’ll understand. I don’t know how it will reach you, but I’ll find a way. No one knows about the letter; its content doesn’t fit with my “moving on” narrative. So if you do read it, let it be our secret. Just imagine me close to you, whispering it in your ear—our story, in my words. And maybe at the end we will work out how we lost each other and how we can find each other once more." Location 42
Clearly most readers will recognize that the narrow point of view can make for an unreliable narrator. As details of the girl's past emerge in Rachel's letters, astute readers will likely guess many of the secrets long before they are revealed. Certainly the tone of the novel gets darker as it progresses. McBeth does a nice job building tension as more information is disclosed and more suspicions about the truth arise.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of St. Martin's Press via Netgalley for review purposes.