What is this about?: Ana is a recluse, someone people may notice, but never remember. She lives with her dog River, who has been her constant companion since she was a child. One day, everything changes when she finds the man that killed Rebecca Marsden — Luke — and takes him home and imprisons him in her basement.
What else is this about?: This is about two people who are playing mind games with one another, leaving you wondering who to believe is correct. And it’s about Ana, who is desperate for a connection, and who still lives in the shadow of her mother.
He knows he’s innocent. She knows he’s a killer. Who do you believe?
In the shadow of a mountain in small-town Tasmania, a woman named Ana is watching the clock, marking the days until she ends her life.
The strange, reclusive daughter of the local pariah, that’s how people will remember her, when they remember her at all. No one will mourn her, she reasons, not really. Not even her faithful dog River. The only thing she’s waiting for is the opportunity.
But then, on the very day she planned to end it all, the police find the body of local woman Rebecca Marsden. And for Ana, that changes everything. Because Ana was the last person to see Rebecca alive. Because Ana thinks she knows who killed her. And because Ana has decided to keep him for herself…
Lonely Girl is Ana, a young woman who lives alone in a house in a small town in Tasmania. Her only companion is River, now an elderly dog who she doesn’t want to let go of — he is old, and in pain, but without him she has no-one in this world. And that’s why in the beginning of the book, her plan is to kill herself with River.
But, things change when she spies a couple having sex, and then — and then Rebecca, the woman she saw, is found murdered. And Ana, knocks down the man — Luke — she saw with Rebecca that fateful night she spied them having sex, and decides to keep him in her basement.
I swear, the book makes that whole last sentence work better.
This is a hard one to review because it’s Ana and Luke and their characterisation that fuel this story, their back-and-forth that keep readers guessing and wondering just who to believe.
It’s not Misery
Thankfully. But, the author has found this level of unease that is a constant through the book, through every interaction they have, and that Ana has with people around her. That feeling left me uncomfortable reading, but I think that’s what it was intended to do — neither Ana nor Luke are straightforward in any sense of the word, and the author unveils bits of them through the entire read.
What we have is two very different characters toying with each other.
Ana has been alone for all of her life, even living with her mother and grandmother. She works at a pharmacy, with a man who is an old friend and who wants more from her, but Ana doesn’t have the capacity for that. Instead, she would rather kill herself and River, her dog than face life without him.
One night after Rebecca’s murder, at the crime scene, circumstances happen that leave her with an unconscious Luke, whom she has knocked down in her panic to escape him. She is convinced he murdered Rebecca — and she is attracted to him.
As the story progresses, Ana reveals herself to be so much more than the timid, and alone person of the initial chapters — because of Luke. It’s interesting to see how Luke changes her, the desire to keep him (while convincing herself it’s because he could be guilty) even while unconscious. Then, the author delves into her past, into her relationship with her mother and how that changed her, moulded her into the person she is today.
Ana is a gloriously effed up character, but it makes her all the more interesting to read. Her evolution and discovery of what she is indeed capable of is fascinating.
Then Luke wakes up
And Ana finds herself with an opponent, someone who is adept at playing her as she is at playing him, especially in the beginning of his captivity — like I said taking him home brings out something different in her, something dark that is at odds with the person in the first few chapters.
Ana is now faced with having a living, breathing man telling her he didn’t kill Rebecca, and intent on getting out. The author plays on readers’ perceptions as well at the short chapters of Luke’s POV on his affair with Rebecca. This window into his mind begins to create the impression of someone darker than we thought, or than he is pretending to be… but does that mean he killed Rebecca?
When I began reading this book, I was unsure of what to expect, but McCarthy’s writing drew me in, and kept me hooked right through to the end.