I am not lost…

March 2, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: THE PASSENGER by Lisa Lutz

Filed under: Reviews — R @ 5:00 pm
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(Double whammy reviews! This is what I get for not watching release dates.)

I was given an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Logging into NetGalley is always a fun adventure, much like being in a library or book store. You wander around for a while, peering at book covers and blurbs, looking for anything that might look interesting–except I don’t have to leave my apartment, and I get a chance to look at advance copies of books. So when I find something that sounds interesting, I jump on it. I get excited for interesting sounding plots, especially from authors I’ve never heard of before. I’ve found some really excellent stories…and I’ve found some real duds too.

I had high hopes for this one. I truly did.

The concept is brilliant. A woman’s husband dies. It’s not her fault, but she flees anyway. Her name has to change, her appearance has to change. Everything must go–and then it just gets worse. It’s drama, it’s action, it’s intrigue. It sounded fantastic.

The trouble is, what started as something that sounded pretty cool ended up feeling empty. Within the first chapter, I’d utterly detached from the main character–who looked, to be perfectly honest, like a clinical psychopath. I had no sense of who she was, why she’d made the utterly irrational decision to flee (and she recognizes that it doesn’t really make sense to run), or why I should care about it.

And I never got that back.

We meet some new interesting characters (like Blue, who likely is actually a clinical psychopath), we get hints as to what might be going on, and we get utterly confused as to what we should be calling the main character. (You’ll note I haven’t given her a name. That’s because in the first two or three chapters, she changes name three times. Yeah.) We’re tossed about from places to place, watching our main character make as few emotional connections as we do, and wonder why exactly we’re watching this train wreck of a life.

There are essentially no characters in this entire book who are relatable at all. I don’t connect with any of them. The one I come the closest to caring about is Ryan, who we don’t properly know his connection to the story until much later. He’s the only well-meaning person in the whole book. Blue was interesting until she became terrifying. Our lead character has no personality of her own to connect to.

When the big finale finally comes, showing the Tarantino-esque ending the author seemed to be shooting for, it gave me a few “ooooh. …THAT’s what was going on” moments, but I still…didn’t…care. There was nothing I’d held onto. In the final moments, we get the biggest reveal of the story, and all I had left in me was a vague and frustrated gesture, tossing my Kindle aside, and going “what?! Why…what? Yeah, okay, sure, but whaaaaaat.” I was utterly at a loss. I cared about literally nothing.

There’s also the matter that there seems to be a decided lack of knowledge about the areas in which the character is traveling. Normally, I don’t see this much in a novel because I rarely know where the book is set. However, at one point the lead character ends up in Erie, PA – a city I know incredibly well. She’s described as going from Union Station onto Peach Street taking a “stroll” as she looks for a motel–which she apparently finds. For one, there are no motels even remotely within walking distance of Union Station. Two, that is not a section of Peach Street to be “strolled” along in the first place. It’s not a nice part of town. Combined with my other frustrations, this was my last straw; I was broken from the book entirely.

I wanted so much to like this. I think if the author had properly given us a Tarantino moment at the beginning–showing us the solution and then walking us to how it happened–it would have helped. It would have given the main character a person to be, rather than a series of masks that even she never grows attached to. I think there’s a really neat and interesting idea here, and the execution utterly falls apart in the making. (Also, it took me at least two or three days after I finished the book before I finally figured out why the book has the title it does. Ugh.)

I contemplated trying to edge this up a half-star, and I can’t bring myself to do it.

Rating: ** (Not Impressed)

THE PASSENGER was released yesterday, March 1st 2016.

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