A Today Show Top Ten Pick
A Florida Book Award Winner
Shortlisted for Prix Polar International Award for Best Book
"A hurricane of a thriller." (Entertainment Weekly)
"Harrowing psychological suspense." (People)
"Riveting psychological suspense of the first order. If you haven't yet experienced Lisa Unger, what are you waiting for?" (Harlan Coben)
On the surface, Annie Powers's life in a wealthy Florida beach neighborhood is happy and idyllic. Her husband, Gray, loves her fiercely; together, they dote on their beautiful young daughter, Victory. But the bubble surrounding Annie is pricked when she senses that the demons of her past have resurfaced and, to her horror, are now creeping up on her. These are demons she can't fully recall because of a highly dissociative state that allowed her to forget. Disturbing events trigger strange and confusing memories for Annie, who realizes she has to quickly piece them together before her past comes to claim her future . . . and her daughter.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Lisa Unger is an award-winning New York Times and internationally bestselling author, published in 26 languages worldwide.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Unger: BLACK OUT
When my mother named me Ophelia, she thought she was being literary. She didn’t realize she was being tragic. But then, I’m not sure she understood the concept of tragedy, the same way that people who are born into money don’t realize they’re rich, don’t even know there’s another way to live. She thought the name was beautiful, thought it sounded like a flower, knew it was from a famous story (play or novel, she wouldn’t have been able to tell you). I guess I should consider myself lucky, since her other choices were Lolita and Gypsy Rose. At least Ophelia had some dignity.
I’m thinking this as I push a cart through the produce aisle of my local supermarket, past rows of gleaming green apples and crisp blooms of lettuce, of fat, shiny oranges and taut, waxy red peppers. The overly familiar man in meats waves at me and gives me what I’m sure he thinks is a winning smile but which only serves to make my skin crawl. “Hi, honey,” he’ll say. Or “Hi, sweetie.” And I’ll wonder what it is about me that invites him to be so solicitous. I am certainly not an open or welcoming person; I can’t afford to be too friendly. Of course, I can’t afford to be too unfriendly, either. I look at my reflection in the metal siding of the meat case to confirm that I am aloof and unapproachable, but not strangely so. My reflection is warped and distorted by the various dings and scars in the metal.
“Hi there, darlin’,” he says with an elaborate sweep of his hand and a slight bow.
I give him a cool smile, more just an upturning of the corner of my mouth. He steps aside with a flourish to let me pass.
I have become the type of woman who would have intimidated my mother. Most days I pull my freshly washed, still-wet blond hair back severely into a ponytail at the base of my neck. The simplicity of this appeals to me. I wear plain, easy clothes—a pair of cropped chinos and an oversize white cotton blouse beneath a navy barn jacket. Nothing special, except that my bag and my shoes cost more than my mother might have made in two months. She would have noticed something like that. It would have made her act badly, turned her catty and mean. I don’t feel anything about this. It’s a fact, plain and simple, as facts tend to be. Well, some of them, any- way. But I still see her in my reflection, her peaches-and-cream skin, her high cheekbones, her deep brown eyes. I see her in my daugh- ter, too.
I’m back in produce, though, honestly, I don’t remember what caused me to drift back here. I am holding a shiny, ripe nectarine in my hand. I must have been gazing at it as if it were a crystal ball, trying to divine the future. I look up to see my neighbor Ella Singer watching me with equal parts amusement and concern. I’m not sure how long she has been trying to get my attention or how long I’ve been staring at the nectarine. We’re more than neighbors; we’re friends, too. Everyone here calls me Annie, even Gray, who knows better.
“Where were you?” she asks.
“Sorry,” I say, with a smile and a quick shake of my head. “Just out of it.”
“Yeah. Good. Great.”
She nods, grabs a few nectarines of her own. “Where’s Vicky?”
All the women in our neighborhood, her teachers, her friends’ mothers, call my daughter Vicky. I don’t correct them, but it always makes me cringe internally. It’s not her name. I named her Victory because it meant something to me, and I hope in time it will mean something to her. True, I named her in a fit of overconfidence. But Gray understood my choice and agreed. We were both feeling overconfident that day. I’m still clinging to that feeling. Though recently, for reasons I can’t explain, it has begun to fade.
“She’s with Gray’s stepmom. Swimming lessons with Grandma,” I say, dropping the fruit into a clear plastic bag. The nectarines give off a fresh, sweet aroma. They are almost to the point of being overripe, fairly bursting with themselves. An old woman inches past, leaning heavily on an aluminum walker. Some mangled, Muzak version of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by the Police plays tinny and staticky from unseen speakers.
“That’s nice,” Ella says with a nod. “Time for a cappuccino?”
I look at my watch, as if calculating whether or not I can fit it into my busy schedule, even though we both know I have nothing else to do and Victory will be hours yet—between the swimming lessons and her favorite lunch and time with the neighborhood kids. They’re all bigger, older boys, but she commands them like a queen. And they love her for it.
“Sure,” I say. And Ella smiles.
“Great, meet you over there when you’re done.” She means the little spot by the beach where we always go.
“See you in a few.”
She pushes off. I like Ella a lot. She is so easy, so warm and open, so trusting and unfailingly kind; she makes me feel bad about myself, as though I’m some icy bitch. I smile and give her a small wave. My heart is doing a little dance. I think it’s just that I’ve had too much caffeine already and my heart is protesting the thought of more. Maybe I’ll just have some chamomile.
On my way to check out, I see a sullen teenage girl, standing beside her mother at the deli counter. She is so thin her hip bones jut out against her jeans. Her lips are moist and sparkling with pink gloss. She holds a cell phone to her ear and chews on the nail of her right thumb.
“Taylor, cut that out,” her mother says, pulling her daughter’s hand away from her mouth. They look at each other like rival gang members. I wonder if Victory and I will ever come to that place, that bloody rumble of adolescence. Somehow I doubt it. I am always afraid I won’t have the luxury of warring with my teenage daughter.
I step out to load the groceries into my car. I see Ella pulling out of the parking lot; she holds up her fingers indicating five minutes. She’s headed home to put away her groceries before we meet for coffee, and I’ll do the same since we both live just minutes from here. Then we don’t have to worry about the chicken going bad, the ice cream melting, those suburban concerns I appreciate so much for their simplicity and relative safety. But it’s as I slam my trunk that I feel it.
It’s as if the sun has dipped behind a thick cloud cover and the sky has gone charcoal. Only they haven’t. It is a bright, unseasonably cool, spring day in Florida. The parking lot is packed, populated by moms and nannies with their kids of all ages on spring break before Easter. I hear laughter, a gull calling; I smell the salt from the Gulf of Mexico. But inside I am quaking. There’s cool black ink in my veins.
I slip into my SUV and lock the door, grip the wheel, and try to calm myself. I’ve had these panics before. Usually they are isolated incidents, intense but brief like the summer storms here. In the last few days, though, they’ve come one after another, surprising me with their ferocity. False alarms, Gray calls them. I’ve always thought of them more as an early-warning system.
This one is deeper, blacker than I’m used to. I am truly afraid, sweating and going pale. My breathing starts to come ragged, and I glance in my rear- and sideview mirrors but see nothing out of the ordinary. The contrast makes me dizzy, almost angry at the day for being so clear, at the people in the parking lot living their lives so benignly.
After a while I pull from the lot, still shaky, and drive carefully the short distance to our home. I pass through the residents’ side of the security gate with a wave to the watchman, cruise past ridiculously opulent homes nestled beneath clusters of tall palms with their barrel-tile roofs and colorful mailboxes shaped like manatees, dolphins, flamingos, or miniature versions of the larger house. Late-model luxury cars rest on stone-paved driveways.
As I pull up my drive, a neighbor is watering her flowers and lifts a friendly hand to me. I return the greeting and try to smile as I open the garage door with the remote on my rearview mirror. Afraid there’s an inane conversation in my immediate future, I close the garage door while I’m still in the car. I turn off the engine and sit for a minute; my heart slows its dance. I’m safe, I tell myself. This house is safe. The shaking starts to subside. My breathing steadies. I press a button on my dash and hear a dial tone.
“Call Grandma,” I say.
“Calling Grandma,” the car phone answers stiffly. Victory loves this, giggles uncontrollably every time she hears it.
After only one ring, a smooth male voice answers, “Hello.”
“It’s Annie,” I say, and I know my voice sounds wobbly. There’s a pause; he hears it, too. He is a man who misses nothing.
“Hi, Annie.” The ever-calm tones of my father-in-law, Drew. I imagine him sitting behind the oak desk of his home office, surrounded by all his degrees and military decorations, photos of his Navy SEAL buddies—eerie, grainy images of men too young, too happy to be holding guns. “They’re in the pool.”
“Everything’s all right?” I ask, hating the words as they tumble from my lips.
“Everything’s fine here,” he answers, solid and sure. I am soothed by the certainty and reassurance in his voice, as much as I hate to reveal any weakness in front of him.
“Is everything all right there?” he asks after a beat has passed. I try not...
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Book Description Arrow, 2009. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. Brand new copy. Bookseller Inventory # 031541