St. Martin’s Press, June 6, 2017.
In 1999, Laura and Kit had a seemingly perfect relationship. The two met in their early twenties, fell in love, and began to travel the world. Kit is an “eclipse chaser,” and Laura became enamoured with the hobby as well, as they experienced the magnificent events at festivals worldwide. Although Kit has family issues, their lives seem to be on track for the most part – happy, health and in love.
Now, in 2015, Kit and Laura are still together, but their circumstances are very different. Married and expecting a baby, the couple have changed their names and hidden their identities, living in fear after witnessing a shocking crime at an eclipse festival. Years before in rural England, the two of them stumbled across the aftermath of a violent sexual assault. They did everything right, including calling the cops and getting medical help for the victim – but then the suspect turned himself in and told the police it was a consensual encounter. Not sure who to believe, Kit truthfully tells his side of the story in court. Laura, however, knows the jury is inclined to believe the wealthy, successful accused rapist – so she embellishes her story to protect the victim, Beth.
After the rapist is convicted, Beth tracks down Laura to thank her for what she did – but Laura is afraid of Kit finding out that she lied on the witness stand. She is nervous around Beth, but at the same time the two women forge a strong connection based on their shared experience. Beth begins spending most of her time with Kit and Laura, even staying at their apartment, but Kit remains suspicious of this emotional, unstable woman. It is not until strange things begin happening around the apartment, including a near-fatal fire, that Laura is convinced that Beth is not what she seems.
Meanwhile, Laura is also receiving threatening letters from the convicted rapist, who is still appealing the charges years later. She hides this from Kit too – to protect him, but also to hide the lies that she told. Laura is unlikeable and unreliable, but as Kit slowly reveals his side of the story, we learn that he is very different than the naïve, gentle man that he seems to be.
The novel jumps around from 1999/2000 and the events of Beth’s assault, to the present in 2015. When we learn how Laura and Kit saved Beth from her attacker, it seems impossible that they now live in fear of her finding them, leaving us to wonder how things could get so bad. The alternating narrative of Laura and Kit fills in the blanks, as the shocking reveals just keep coming. In 2015, Kit is journeying to the Faroe Islands to see an eclipse, leaving his very pregnant wife at home – their separation is the catalyst for Beth’s reappearance in their lives, and the culmination of Laura’s obsession and paranoia.
The symbolism of the eclipse hovers over every scene in the book, emphasizing the contrast between the light and the shadows – as the truth comes out, the reader realizes that we are still in the dark about so many things. As the characters reveal themselves, our sympathies shift between them, leaving us to wonder who are the “he” and “she” of the title, and whether any of the characters can be believed. This is a character-driven novel, peopled with complex, realistic narrators – but it also has an impressively strong plot, that keeps the surprises coming right up until the last scene, and the ending does not disappoint. This novel definitely lives up to the hype – it’s everything a taut, tense psychological thriller should be.
I received this novel from Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.