A Kind of Intimacy
By Jenn Ashworth
Obese, shy, and friendless, Annie is new to the neighborhood, a 28-year-old mysteriously former wife and mother who relies on copious amounts of self-help literature to navigate what she sees as a frightening, disordered world. Like another horror heroine, Stephen King's Carrie, who came before her, Annie is an outcast with a fucked-up parent, a young woman whom society ignores when not belittling or ridiculing her. Her line, "Most of the time I dealt with my father by pretending to be deaf," deftly sums up her childhood, which she visits in several flashback chapters. Annie narrates the story, and it quickly becomes clear that her recollection of events can't be trusted. English first novelist Jenn Ashworth's choice to have her unreliable narrator toggle back and forth between two storylines sometimes causes the first-time novelist to trips clumsily over the curtain that hides Annie's disturbing past, rather than pulling it back at a deliberate pace until the climactic converging of the storylines. Ashworth does, however, masterfully inject notes of thrilling—and funny—dread into many scenes, as when Annie refuses to admit to herself that she has just come down from a week-long wine-fueled bender, or when she "accidentally" overhears her neighbors taking a shower together. Like all really great pieces of creepy writing, these passages only really get to you after you put the book down—and putting it down might be a challenge at its best moments. Unfortunately, the climax of the book is not one of those moments—not because it's not well-drawn, but perhaps because it feels a little too inevitable, in a way that betrays the originality of the main character and her story.