Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Matt Bowers’s life ended at sixteen, when a vicious betrayal by someone who he should have been able to trust left him a shell of himself, fighting OCD and PTSD, living in constant fear and always running. When he buys a remote tract of land, he thinks he’s found the perfect place to hide from the world and attempt to establish some peace. For ten years he believes he’s found a measure of comfort, until the day a stranger begins to run on Matt’s road.
He returns every day, an unwelcome intrusion into Matt’s carefully structured life. Matt appeals to the local sheriff, who cannot help him since the jogger is doing nothing wrong. Gradually, after tentatively breaking the ice, Matt begins to accept the man’s presence—
But when the runner doesn’t show up one day, it throws Matt’s world into chaos and he must make the hardest decision of his life.
I’ve been sitting here wondering what to write. How do I write a review when I thought the writing was exceptional and the narrating so perfect that I was emotionally pulled into the story from the very beginning? There’s no getting around the fact that Parker Williams can write heartbreaking stories. This is certainly one of those. What happens to Matt Bowers at the young age of sixteen should never happen to anyone and yet it does. We hear stories of sexual abuse over and over again until it almost numbs you. It takes stories like Matt’s to make those numbers personal and give them a face again. And a narrator like Patrick Zeller to give them a voice.
Something else horrible happened to Matt that day the teacher attacked him, a deep part of him died or maybe it just permanently changed in order to survive the attack and to try to heal as best he could. He became a different Matt, a post attack Matt that handled living post attack far differently than pre attack Matt ever could have envisioned. He had to take control of his life in the small ways he knew how, he had to clean, and, he had to make sure he was safe. Words we would apply to Matt would be PTSD and OCD, however, those words would not be words he applied to himself.
Because this story is told from Matt’s pov, after the attack, Matt finds nothing but pity and an inability for his Mother and brother to see him as anything other than a wounded preattack Matt, not as the functioning post attack Matt he’s become. In that frame of mind, with the help of lawyers, Matt takes charge of the settlement fund at the age of 18, leaves home, buys a remote house with land and basically becomes something of a hermit, remaining isolated and in his mind safe from harm.
So I have major issues there with an 18 year old and his mother not looking at other options for treatment, counseling etc. Yes, a book can have literary license but my issues with the mother and brother will continue on throughout the story and it’s origins begin here. I find them irresponsible and their following actions more so. That Matt “writes off” their actions or apologizes for them because they love him? That I find equally troubling. That they continue to do what they think is best, whether it actually is or not, is something I find controlling bordering on abuse. That it’s done with love? Doesn’t make it right or downright creepy. Especially now that the local sheriff is also his brother.
The runner, a writer named Charlie, gets to know Matt in an unusual way. And slowly they build a tentative relationship, one that also allows us to see that Matt has also built a life for himself on his land that has its own riches. There is true beauty here in Parker’s narrative. Descriptions of Matt’s life on the land and his inner thoughts of his life and schedules. And how it all starts to slightly fracture and enlarge as Charlie wedges himself into Matt’s life.
Its only as the brother bludgeons his way back in over and over, harsh and with such a shattering impact that I had to really think about the story and the way the brother is included into Matt’s life. That he’s such a vivid character is due to the author’s terrific characterization, but I just never “liked him” or the manner in which he felt he had the right to control Matt’s life. Same goes for Matt’s mother. Ah well. Great writing if you make me dislike the characters so.
Either way, these are difficult subjects to address and I’m not sure everyone is going to be able to look at them objectively. Its far too emotional a story for that. It is, however, a wonderfully moving one. I love how it ended. And for me Patrick Zeller will always be the voice of Matt. Fragile at times, wounded certainly, and finding the strength that was there all along. How I love him.
Yes, I absolutely recommend this story and this narrator.
Cover art: Reese Dante is perfection.
Listening Length: 6 hours and 11 minutes
Published January 23rd 2018 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 28th 2017)
URLhsettingMaine (United States)