Dream Girl by Laura Lippman
6/22/21; 320 pages
Dream Girl by Laura Lippman is a highly recommended psychological thriller.
Gerry Andersen, 61, is a successful novelist who relocated from NYC to an upscale apartment in Baltimore so he could care for his aging mother. She died soon after he moved in and Gerry was at loose ends when he had an accident that left him confined to a hospital bed in his apartment. Now he is cared for during the day by his assistant, Victoria, and at night by a nurse, Aileen. On a regimen of painkillers and physical therapy to build upper body strength so he can use a wheelchair in the future, Gerry's mind wanders back among his various life experiences. When he begins receiving phone calls from a woman who claims she is Aubrey, the main character in his phenomenal best seller, Dream Girl, Gerry knows there is no Aubrey. What does the mysterious caller want and why doesn't the number of the caller show up? Could Gerry be hallucinating?
Chapters alternate between Gerry's current situation and various
incidents that happened in his past. The past recollections skip around
widely from his childhood to a few years before his accident. He recalls
his childhood, three marriages, last girl friend, affairs, book tours,
and teaching jobs, in no particular order. Gerry is, naturally, the star
of his recollections, but it becomes increasingly clear that Gerry is a
bit of a cad and clueless over his less than stellar actions. Clearly, Gerry is an unreliable narrator.
He starts out as generally agreeable and quickly loses his charm as his
hazy memories jump from one memory to another. To Lippman's credit, the
novel delves deep into the mind of this writer and his version of his
experiences. In the end, everything merges into a picture of the writer
and his life.
With such a limited cast and a house bound main character we really
only have Gerry's thoughts available to help us decipher what is really
going on in the story line. After a certain event, the novel takes an
ominous turn and becomes akin to a horror novel, although I would still
place it firmly in the realm of psychological suspense. The plot device
of having Gerry housebound, helpless, drugged, and dependent on others
for his care merges smoothly with Gerry's concern that he may be
hallucinating or losing his mind. The pace is slow, but Lippman does a
great job of including little tidbits of cultural, literary, and movie references. (I will admit being hopeful when Tess Monaghan made an appearance in the plot, but it is just a brief visit.)