Give Me Your Hand
If you, like me, enjoy novels that center around the extremely complex nature of female friendship, you won’t want to miss Give Me Your Hand, the latest standalone thriller by author Megan Abbott. It’s an engrossing mix of spine-tingling suspense and the kind of relationship drama so many of us have experienced over the course of our lives. Plus, a great deal of the action takes place in a chemistry lab, something I ended up enjoying far more than I expected.
Kit Owens has never wanted to stand out from the crowd. She’s a good student who enjoys keeping her head down and concentrating on her studies. She’s pretty sure she’ll go to college someday, but she doesn’t yet have a clear idea what career path she’ll explore. Then, the enigmatic Diane Fleming joins Kit’s chemistry class, and Kit’s life begins to change almost immediately. Suddenly, getting good grades is no longer enough. It’s now imperative that Kit rise to the top of her class and earn her acceptance into an elite summer program for students who plan to work in the field of chemistry once they graduate from college. Diane is determined to be one of the participants in the program, and her self-confidence brings out a competitiveness in Kit that no one has seen before now. The two girls strike up an unlikely friendship, and Kit works harder in school than ever before – but will it be enough to earn her one of the coveted spots in the program?
Kit and Diane don’t spend all their time studying though. They also spend a great deal of time discussing their hopes and dreams for the future. Kit has never had a friend like Diane, and she soon becomes convinced the two of them are destined to spend their lives as partners at some exclusive chemistry lab. And then, Diane reveals a terrifying secret, and everything Kit thought she knew about her friend is called into question. She’s terrified by what Diane has shared with her, and she has no idea how to deal with the momentous nature of the secret. She eventually cuts off all contact with Diane, determined to pretend their friendship never happened.
A decade later, Kit is living her professional dream. She has landed a position at one of the most distinguished labs in the country, and she just knows she’s about to be part of something that will truly change the way women’s health is viewed worldwide. But when Diane joins the team, Kit’s insecurities begin to rise to the surface. Why has Diane re-entered her life after all this time, and is it possible she’s seeking some kind of revenge for the way Kit ended their friendship all those years ago?
I was initially a bit intimidated by the idea of reading something that was so heavily focused on science, a subject that has never managed to capture my attention. I worried that I be bemused by all the discussions of scientific research, but that isn’t how things turned out at all. Kit and Diane are working as part of a team studying a menstrual disorder, and Ms. Abbott does a great job of including enough scientific information to give the story an authentic feel without getting too bogged down in scientific minutiae. I was able to follow the story with no difficulty even though I know next to nothing about chemistry.
The story is told exclusively from Kit’s point of view, and we move back in forth in time between the past and the present. I was a little frustrated by how long it took for Diane’s secret to be revealed to the reader. It felt like Ms. Abbott was intentionally drawing things out in an attempt to create suspense, but I would have rather learned the truth a little sooner. It would have made it a lot easier to understand why Kit has such conflicted feelings about Diane’s reappearance.
I read a lot of thrillers these days so it’s pretty hard to surprise me, but I’m pleased to report that Ms. Abbott managed to do just that; I didn’t see the ending coming at all. I was pretty sure I had things figured out, but nothing went as I expected. I love it when an author can lead me down one road while managing to lay the foundation for something completely different to take place.
Give Me Your Hand received quite a bit of buzz in the weeks leading up to its release, and it managed to live up to all the hype. It’s a book I’m quite happy to recommend to those who enjoy twisty mysteries that plumb the depths of the female psyche.