Don't You Cry
I expected to give this book a much better grade. I loved Ms. Kubica’s Good Girl and found her book Pretty Baby interesting, memorable and thought provoking. This novel, though, is a mish-mash of stupid people being shocked – shocked I tell you! – when their asinine decisions lead to bad results. No! Say it ain’t so! Yep folks, bad choices most often lead to equally bad results. If you find yourself in a clusterf*%# sometimes the only appropriate question isn’t “How did this happen?” but “Why did I do this to myself?”
A woman mysteriously disappears in Chicago, there when her roommate leaves to go clubbing in the evening, vanished by the next morning when the girl wakes up after a night of too much drinking. A woman mysteriously appears in a small Michigan harbor town just an hour north, a stranger in a place where everyone knows everyone else – and everyone else’s business.
In Chicago, as the hours stretch to days, young Quinn Collins begins to wonder what happened to her absent cohabitor. Esther Vaughan is the epitome of mature and responsible. Or is she? As Quinn searches Esther’s room she makes some disturbing discoveries, leading her to wonder if she really knew the woman she had been living with at all. A vapid and selfish young woman, Quinn manages to make her hunt for her missing roommate into an opportunity to steal the guy she is crushing on from his girlfriend.
In Michigan, young Alex stands in the wasteland of the life he has managed to destroy before reaching his nineteenth birthday. Having given up a promising scholarship, he washes dishes and cleans tables at the local diner, barely able to make ends meet for himself and his drunk of a father. This was my first problem with Alex as a character and one of my biggest. The appropriate response to dealing with an alcoholic is to seek professional help, not give up your future to enable his disorder. But we are just getting introduced to Alex’s poor decision-making ability. When a mystery woman walks into the restaurant where he works, nursing a cup of coffee for hours and staring at the office of the shrink across the street, he becomes intrigued by her. As he goes about his daily routine, he thinks of her, following her when he gets the chance. He watches her dance in her underwear in a cold lake, sees her as she whips about town, seeming to vanish before his eyes. He gives her his name but she demurs when it is time to give him hers. Let me just stop right here because there is so much wrong happening there. First, the appropriate response to being interested in a woman: Talk to her. Inappropriate response: Stalk. Anybody, ever. This is always the inappropriate response. Second, when someone refuses to give you their name, when they are showing all the signs of maybe needing to speak to the psychologist they are watching covertly through a diner window, maybe that’s a sign the relationship isn’t meant to be. Maybe you should make an appointment with that doctor yourself rather than give in to the psychosis that has you attaching to deeply damaged people. Of course that is not what happens and Alex follows his mystery lady down the rabbit hole.
Real human beings make bad or selfish choices all the time, I get that. However, a good author blows us away by making us see how we, too, could make that same choice given those same circumstances. That doesn’t happen here. The choices made were so stupid, the likelihood of the decisions so unreal that I couldn’t help but hate the characters who made them. This is a big problem, since psychological suspense tales are character driven mysteries. I should add that there is a difference between crazy but calculating and intriguing, like Amy of Gone Girl, selfish yet sympathetic like Nick from Gone Girl and just plain dumb, like everyone from Don’t You Cry. The former are fun to read, the latter make you want to scratch your own eyes out.
We aren’t really given a date for the book but from the mention of things like mobile phones, texting and other computer technology I came to the conclusion that the earliest the events it describes could possibly take place is around 1999. Assuming that to be the case means that a crucial character would have been born circa 1970. This is vital because the entire premise for the story, the key factor in what causes every action and reaction, revolves around what happened with emotionally disturbed children during that decade. The author would have you believe that there were no supports or services in place at all. That is not, in fact, true. At the time, we did have mental health parameters for dealing with children who presented a safety concern to themselves or their community members. Those who were wealthy or upper middle-class would receive psychiatric help. Those who were poor would be institutionalized. I in no way want to say that the latter was the right response but it was a solution utilized that this novel completely ignores. Given what happened instead and the chain of events set off by a solution that I can at best describe as selfish but which teeters on the edge of lunacy, I feel institutionalization would have been the proper route.
There are some positives to the book: the prose is excellent, the plotting solid albeit dependent on the complete stupidity of the protagonists and the setting appropriately chilling and atmospheric. Those aren’t – to my mind – enough to offset the troubles with the characters but they do keep the book from being an F.
It’s hard to discuss a book where much of what goes wrong can’t be revealed because of spoilers but I hope I have been able to convey what made this a very poor read. Given its cost and the difficulties within the text I am sad to say I can’t recommend Don’t You Cry. I will still pick up Ms. Kubica’s next book since her others have all been so good and will be hopeful that this was just a one off that will never be repeated.