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Tuesday 29 March 2016

‘If She Did It’ by Jessica Treadway

Published by Sphere,
3 December 2015.
ISBN: 978 0 7515 5526 4 (PB)

The boomerang kids syndrome, when grown-up sons or daughters leave home then come back to the family nest, isn’t uncommon, but usually it’s based around a desire for independence without the means to support it.

In Dawn Schutt’s case, it’s less straightforward. Maxed-out credit cards and an apparent lack of gainful employment certainly seem to be what brings her back; but the reason she left in the first place is altogether more sinister.

Jessica Treadway’s dark psychological thriller explores the catastrophic damage done to a suburban family when one partner is murdered, in this case allegedly by the boyfriend of Dawn, the younger daughter. Slowly and inexorably she weaves together the scattered threads of memory which form a real picture of what happened that night.

Hanna, Dawn’s mother, was beaten and left for dead in the same incident, leaving both her memory and her self-confidence shot to pieces. When the culprit is given leave to appeal his conviction, the prosecutor pressures Hanna to try to remember, so that she can testify at the new trial – then Dawn, who has fled to the other end of the country after being cleared of any involvement in the attack, asks if she can come home.

Treadway builds a powerful picture of a family which has been damaged possibly beyond repair, as Hanna tries desperately to rebuild a relationship with Dawn and maintain one with her other daughter, (who has also been damaged by the attack, albeit not physically), all the time struggling to remember what really did happen on that fateful night. Multiple timelines are deftly handled, moving back and forth as tiny details serve as triggers for memories stretching as far back as Hanna’s childhood as she strives to make sense of everything that has happened.

The novel shows that however ordinary people appear, everyone is an individual, with vulnerabilities as well as quirks and flaws which can be misinterpreted and rub other people the wrong way. Friends and neighbours don’t always react to tragedy as they might be expected to; appearances can deceive and affect relationships; and sometimes help and support comes from an unexpected direction.

Through Hanna’s struggle to make sense of everything that has happened, Treadway threads a taut line of suspense: was the attacker really Dawn’s sociopathic boyfriend, or was someone else entirely? involved? Was Dawn herself involved, or was she hundreds of miles away as she has always claimed? Is somebody trying to silence Hanna, or is her hair-trigger imagination playing tricks?

The result is a rich family drama with a dark underbelly, well written and neatly plotted.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Jessica Treadway is a native of Albany, New York, currently living in Boston. She received her bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Albany before working as a news and feature reporter for United Press International. After studying for her master’s degree in the creative writing program at Boston University, she held a fellowship at the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College and taught at Tufts University before joining the faculty at Emerson College, where she is a professor in the Department of Writing, Literature, and Publishing.

Her story collection Please Come Back to Me received the Flannery O'Connor Award For Short Fiction and was published by the University of Georgia Press in 2010. Her other books are Absent Without Leave, a collection of stories (Delphinium Books/​Simon & Schuster, 1992), and And Give You Peace, a novel (Graywolf Press, 2001). Her fiction has been published in The Atlantic, Ploughshares, The Hudson Review, Glimmer Train, AGNI, Five Points, and other journals, and has been cited multiple times in The Best American Short Stories annual anthology.
In addition to her fiction, Jessica has published essays and book reviews for publications including The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, Glamour, and The Huffington Post. She has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. A former member of the Board of Directors of PEN-New England, where she served as co-chair of the Freedom to Write Committee, she lives in Lexington, Massachusetts with her husband, Philip Holland.
Photograph courtesy of Levine photography

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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