Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist Rebecca Makkai’s latest novel is a powerful meditation on how people confront their pasts, especially when the past in question is one believed to have been laid to rest, only to be resurrected in the light of new revelations.
Told from the perspective of a now successful podcaster and film professor, Bodie Kane appears to lead a reasonable existence despite memories of a decidedly unhappy childhood at a New Hampshire boarding school, where her former roommate, Thalia Keith, was found murdered in the school swimming pool in the spring of her senior year. Nearly thirty years later, the circumstances surrounding Thalia’s death and the conviction of the school’s athletic trainer are the subject of considerable debate, and this situation intensifies when Granby School invites her back to teach a series of short courses on podcasting and film studies.
As one of her students chooses to cover Thalia’s case for her podcast, research gradually uncovers details that suggest the school and the police may have overlooked other suspects in their haste to convict someong, and that the real killer may still be out there.
As Bodie feels drawn to discover what really happened, she starts to question herself and her memories, asking herself if maybe she was not as much as an outsider from the rest of the students than she initially thought and even thinks she might have played a part in Omar being wrongfully convicted in 1995. This provides the perfect springboard for a meditation on how people, through their stories as victims, become public property, subject to the collective imagination.
Setting the story in two main timeline, focusing not only on the protagonist’s boarding school days, but then bringing everything to the present day to include podcasts, turns the book into a fascinatingly timely tale, one that contrasts how today’s younger generation’s investigative techniques are a far cry from those used to attempt to crack the case in 1995, when the rumour mill and adolescents assumptions played such a large part in determining who would end up being considered the prime suspect, and who would not even be deemed worthy of a second look.
Brimming with unforgettable characters that readers of all ages will instantly find fascinating, Makkai’s whodunit differs from most in that the protagonist walks us through the crime scene both from the pespective of young school kids before taking us three decades forward to explore these same kids as adults, struggling to fathom what really happened; all of which takes a tremendous toll, especially as the fallout is much more extensive now, with most of the school kids having now formed families that could be put at risk by something that happened all those years ago.
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group // Publishes: February 23, 2023