The Woman Inside
It’s hard when a book turns out to be something completely different from the one you were expecting. I picked up The Woman Inside, the début novel from author E.G. Scott, thinking it was a domestic thriller featuring a husband and wife who commit crimes together, but that wasn’t at all what it turned out to be, and at first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. The characters are extremely flawed and the plot is compelling, but it took me a little while to let go of my expectations and appreciate the story for what it actually was.
When the story opens, Paul and Rebecca have been married for almost two decades. As you might expect, their marriage wasn’t always filled with sunshine and rainbows, but the reader is given the impression that the couple is relatively happy with their relationship. Rebecca is a sales associate for a large pharmaceutical company, and Paul is a successful real estate agent. At one time, he owned a very successful contracting company, but when the U.S. fell on hard times in 2008, his company went bankrupt, forcing him to seek out a new line of work. Selling rather than building houses isn’t necessarily something he loves, but Paul seems grateful to have a job that helps keep Rebecca and himself in the lifestyle they’ve grown accustomed to.
It doesn’t take long for the reader to realize things are not as smooth and peaceful as they appear on the surface. Rebecca has a drug problem, one she’s trying hard to keep hidden from those around her, but unfortunately, she’s not nearly as good at hiding her addiction as she thinks she is, and she ends up losing her job as a result of her habit. Her reaction to this loss isn’t at all what I was expecting. She is extremely angry and hatches a rather hare-brained scheme to empty the bank account she and Paul share and leave the country without letting her husband know what has happened. Unfortunately for her, it turns out that Paul has been keeping his own set of secrets and has already taken most of their savings out of the bank.
Rebecca is quite fixated on what she views as Paul’s great betrayal of her trust, and rather than looking for a new job or trying to get help for her drug addiction, she begins to spy on Paul, determined to find out what he’s hiding from her, but the deeper she digs into his personal life, the more questions she has. Is Paul planning to leave her for another woman, or could his plans be far more sinister than Rebecca can imagine?
The story is told from multiple points of view, but we spend the majority of our time with Rebecca and Paul. We learn about the early days of their marriage and discover what led them to the crisis point they are currently experiencing. Neither of these characters is particularly likable, and yet I found myself strangely drawn to them in spite of their huge flaws. It was obvious they loved each other deeply, but something about that love gave me an uneasy feeling. These are people who lie to each other practically all the time in both large and small ways, and seem to see nothing wrong with their behavior. Both of them have suffered deep traumas, and a part of me wondered if either of them would ever be able to find healing.
You’re probably wondering about the other characters we encounter in this story, but I’ll leave you to find out about them on your own. Revealing their identities would serve only to spoil some key elements of the plot, so I’ll just say that each of the other narrators offers a unique perspective on the relationship between Rebecca and Paul, and I enjoyed learning what they knew about the couple.
I usually read these kinds of books when I’m in the mood for something thrilling and fun, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you might hesitate to pick this up. The Woman Inside is a dark and gritty picture of an imploding marriage, and while I did enjoy it, I came away from it with a feeling of deep sadness. It’s a page-turner for sure, but it’s weightier than a lot of books that are classified in that way.
E.G. Scott is an author I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on in the coming years. I’ve never read anything quite like this, and I’m intrigued to see what the author will come up with next.