“I’d Know You Anywhere” by Laura Lippman

Title: I’d Know You Anywhere
Author: Laura Lippman
ISBN: 9780061706554
Pages: 384
Release date: August 17, 2010
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Format: ARC
Source: Crazy Book Tours
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary

Eliza Benedict leads a very normal life. She ought to; she’s worked hard enough for it. But there are some things Eliza can’t forget—and some things that she cannot leave behind.

There’s a reason Eliza sleeps with the windows closed, the doors locked, the alarm on. There’s a reason she doesn’t have close friends, and that’s not because she just moved to Bethesda after six years in London. It’s not that Eliza doesn’t trust anyone; in fact, she trusts her family wholeheartedly—though lately, her trust in her prepubescent daughter, Iso, seems more and more misplaced. She’s just careful: careful that her son, Albie, doesn’t walk to school alone; careful that Iso is never at the mall without her; careful that she never be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Eliza wasn’t always so careful. But that was back when she was still called Elizabeth, back when she took long lonely walks in the woods, back before a man named Walter taught her that innocence is weakness.

Yes, Eliza’s more careful now, though twenty years after her kidnapping, with her abuser behind bars, it seems as though she could lighten up a little.

But she can’t stop wondering: Why her? Why did Walter allow her to live, when she was so mousy, so scared, so unremarkable, so completely powerless? She wasn’t like her sister, Vonnie. Vonnie would’ve fought back, like the other girls Walter is accused of killing.

So when Eliza gets a strange letter in the mail, claiming to be written on behalf of Walter and begging her to open wounds that closed long ago, she doesn’t immediately dismiss it. What if the answer to all of her questions is in sight after all these years?

Eliza plunges into old memories and new entanglements, unearthing the past to answer the question that has haunted her for decades. But what will she do with the secrets she finds?

Analysis

I was a little worried that this book would be a “stereotypical thriller”–obviously, I don’t know much about the genre, which may be why I was worried. But I was pleasantly surprised. Lippman deftly balances the horror and pain of 15-year-old Elizabeth’s six weeks with Walter against the pleasant normalcy of 37-year-old Eliza’s life with a loving husband and two—albeit unpredictable—kids.

Despite its dark subject matter, the book is often surprisingly light and almost humorous, like Eliza’s reaction to Walter’s letter:

Getting a letter from Walter was like some exiled citizen of New Orleans getting a telegram signed “Katrina.” Hey, how are you? Do you ever think of me? Those were some crazy times, huh?

The dynamic between Eliza and her melodramatic, attention-grabbing sister Vonnie is frustrating at times, but it also makes their relationship seem more realistic. First of all, the way Eliza interacts with Vonnie—she obeys her, pacifies her, struggles to appease her—explains the way Eliza is able to deal with Walter. Secondly, Eliza has to deal with Vonnie for the rest of their lives; there is no happy ending with a sometimes cruel and always dramatic older sibling, only shades of compromise and maturity. Her relationship with her sister speaks to Eliza’s seemingly endless patience, and her ability to recognize the importance of family, even if they are imperfect and annoying.

Eliza’s relationship with her sister is just one part of the story, though. The other characters are also fleshed-out well. Eliza’s interactions with Walter, of course, are particularly interesting. Though it is pretty clear that Walter is bad and Eliza is good, their relationship seemed to exist in a gray area of sorts. The book grapples with such dichotomies as those between “good” and “bad” and “innocent” and “guilty.” It is a reminder that life is lived in shades of gray, not black and white.

Lippman writes about the D.C. area like she knows it intimately; she portrays it as a place not just where laws are made, but where people live and work and go grocery shopping. Call me biased—I commute through the Mixing Bowl every day—but I particularly liked Lippman’s description of Eliza and Vonnie’s intrepid journey through that Beltway snarl:

It was 9 a.m. and they had been on the road since seven, anticipating a fearful journey past the famous Capital Beltway known called the Mixing Bowl. Although Eliza knew it only by its reputation, as delineated in the “on the eights” traffic reports on WTOP, she feared it. The Mixing Bowl was like the soulless killer in one of those serial horror films. It rested at times, but it never died.

These are the kinds of detail that I appreciate in a book that showcases a particular region; they’re not a huge part of the plot, but they exist as a reminder to readers that the author has lived through the same traffic jams and listens to the same radio stations. This is why I love local lit!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Though I wouldn’t recommend it to those who are particularly sensitive to issues such as sexual violence and kidnapping, I would recommend it to a reader who likes a well-rounded and suspenseful story but dislikes the artificial, pulse-pounding drama of so many other thrillers.

I’d Know You Anywhere is a thoughtful yet suspenseful story that shines with expert character development and shows off my favorite setting–D.C.!

But don’t just take my word for it! See what everyone else is saying:
Ashley, Basically Amazing Books
Rebecca, Beck’s Book Picks
Emily, The Many Thoughts of a Reader
JHS, Colloquium
Tiffany, Tiffany’s Bookshelf

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