Tired with life in London after the death of her mother and dealing with an alcoholic father, Caitlin moves to New York where she hopes her problems will become something of the past. With her money quickly dwindling and feelings of loneliness appearing, her life seems to be looking up when she meets Jake, a handsome man who lives in a commune in the woods. With their emphasis on group therapy, healthy eating and exercise, this looks exactly like the sort of escape Caitlin needs. She soon realises, though, that there is more to this lifestyle than meets the eye and finding her way back out may not be as easy as she thinks.
From the start of the book, I had great sympathy for Caitlin and could understand why she felt the need to escape from her life. Underestimating how lonely it can be in a big city, however, was certainly her downfall and it was easy to see how she became smitten with Jake, the good-looking stranger who went out of his way to make her feel wanted. As the reader, alarm bells were immediately ringing when he suggested she go to meet his family in an isolated house in the woods and it was good to see how Caitlin had the same reservations, her feelings towards Jake suppressing these thoughts however.
Considering that the majority of the book takes place in a vast forest, Emma Dibdin has succeeded in creating a tense, claustrophobic setting with an air of foreboding. It is not really a spoiler to say that the commune Caitlin finds herself part of is not exactly what it seems but the author has done a fantastic job in skewing reality to the point that, even as the reader, you do not know what is real and what is in Caitlin’s head. There were several occasions when Caitlin was having doubts and I was willing her to trust her instincts and get out of there as fast as she could but such is the quality of the brainwashing that she never acted on her thoughts.
I admit that this is not the sort of book that would usually grab my attention, but I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read it as it was a fast-paced, easy read filled with tension. This is a great debut and I look forward to reading more of Emma Dibdin’s work.
With thanks to Head of Zeus, Net Galley and Clare Gordon for my copy of the book.
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