Alexis Schaitkin | published: February 2020 | 343 pages
Claire is only seven years old when her college-age sister, Alison, disappears on the last night of their family vacation at a resort on the Caribbean island of Saint X. Several days later, Alison’s body is found in a remote spot on a nearby cay, and two local men – employees at the resort – are arrested. But the evidence is slim, the timeline against it, and the men are soon released. The story turns into national tabloid news, a lurid mystery that will go unsolved. For Claire and her parents, there is only the return home to broken lives.
Years later, Claire is living and working in New York City when a brief but fateful encounter brings her together with Clive Richardson, one of the men originally suspected of murdering her sister. It is a moment that sets Claire on an obsessive pursuit of the truth – not only to find out what happened the night of Alison’s death but also to answer the elusive question: Who exactly was her sister? At seven, Claire had been barely old enough to know her: a beautiful, changeable, provocative girl of eighteen at a turbulent moment of identity formation.
As Claire doggedly shadows Clive, hoping to gain his trust, waiting for the slip that will reveal the truth, an unlikely attachment develops between them, two people whose lives were forever marked by the same tragedy.
Must read of the year? Maybe. Although a bit of a sleeper initially, we quickly ramp up to a mysterious page turner with a thrilling twist.
Saint X is the Caribbean isle du jour, playing host to upper middle class family vacations. Its equipped with lavish resorts, flowing alcohol, available upon request marijuana, and hot pool boys to deliver said requests to adults and teenage girls alike. The story is narrated by Claire, the quirky younger sister of shiny and bright, college age Alison. Alison sounds like your typical pretty, popular yet, bored, 19 year old girl…young hot and ready. 🤦🏾♀️ Young, socially awkward Claire is already in awe of her older sister, and maybe starting to realize what it will be like to grow up in her shadow. No worries, Alison gets herself missing in no time and Claire gets to grow up in the shadow of her dark death instead of her light. Improvement or no?
Alisons disappearance becomes the twist of fate that links the books characters together. The story is really about what happens to them as a result of her death. Narrated by Claire, the story is about what happens with everyone involved..the boys accused, their families, the parents and Claire herself.
After Alison’s death, the family moves from their hometown, looking for a fresh start. Claire reaches for that as well and changes her name and tries to loose her quirky habits. Years later, still a bit of a disassociated weirdo, she finds herself in New York and face to face with one of the men accused of killing her sister, Clive. Clive is a taxi driver and Claire decides to follow and befriend him, in hopes of finding out what happened to her sister. They wind up becoming friends of a sort and the story of the two is beautiful in an ugly way.
Pros: The plot reminds me of the true life disappearance of Natalee Holloway. Young pretty, popular white girl gone missing on a Caribbean island. Last seen in a car of locals that were initially arrested, but later released and never convicted. From there, the author paints a twisted story of what may have happened to those left behind. The boys that were last seen with Natalee, how did they fair on the small island? What about their families? Also Claire and her parents – no one escapes the twist of fate. And most of all, what the hell happened that night?
Cons: Kind of a two sided coin here. What I loved about the book, the plot and ending, is also what I disliked. Its a bit – neat. Seemingly, karma comes after every one, even if not fairly. Sometimes that takes some of the gratification away from the story for me. The author’s description of Claire was annoying to me. Sounds as if Claire was on the spectrum and instead of saying that, she described in lengthy detail, several times, about her quirky physical habits. The overall story line includes a pretty distracting red herring the author doesn’t flush out. For me, it took away from the story.
This book has many elements: murder mystery, surprise thriller ending, and homosexuality. This is the authors debut novel and I would read more of her work. She paints lovely pictures of the places her characters find themselves in. Saint X is colorful and vibrant without having to say so and New York is depressed, grey and gritty – again without having to say those words. I enjoy that sort of texture in a story, I only wish she had used similar skill in describing Claire.
Summer’s over but this would have made an excellent beach read! Eh, curl up on the sofa with your pumpkin spice situation and give it a go anyway! #GoodBook 27 of 42