Article published on August 10, 2011.
Following two previous award winning books, Ray Robinson’s third novel will not disappoint. It features the abduction, capture, cruel and manipulative treatment of a young girl, which he describes as a story inspired by real events.
Thurman Hayes has led a disconnected and tormented childhood. Following the death of his parents and in particular upon escaping the wrath of his father, he is left in an isolated ranch in Arizona, complete with nuclear bunker. Zoe Nelson is an independent, headstrong, intelligent (if sometimes a detached) 10 year old, living with her mother, a loving but flawed character on the previously Nordic island of Unnr, North Canada.
A chance meeting results in her usurpation and 8 year imprisonment at the Arizona ranch. What befalls her is a world of warped and truculent treatment, which Zoe needs to adapt to. Essentially Zoe has to forget her who she was and conform to what Thurman needs, for her to be able to survive. His unreasonable and volatile moods make this a never-ending trial. Punishment varies from emotionally associated deprivation to physical and sexual abuse. Yet cocooned in this world through her developmental years, a strange and powerful bond between captor and captive develops.
Whilst it is evident Thurman had developed a need to become more intimate with girls, and that school age girls instil the most arousal; also that he had started to broaden his search for the right girl – but for me a slight weak point in this book is the sketchy detail surrounding the abduction. It leaves you wondering how such an unworldly person could/would effectively travel 4000 miles to a remote island and successfully carry this off. However this is but a minor criticism, for at the risk of contradicting myself, Robson does demonstrate an artistry of writing a concise story, not over littered with descriptors, enough to set a sharp scene, all the whilst leaving the reader breadth to form their own details, which for the rest of the book his does so majestically.
As is often documented the case with captors and captives, much of the horror and torture is played down to affect a coping strategy. Such is what happens here. Zoe, whilst dependent on Thurman does eventually escape, in what transpires to be the nick of time. The confusion, mixed emotions and to some degree loyalty that she experiences is captured brilliantly. Whilst fragile and obviously scared, Zoe still finds the momentum for moving own -thus reaching a tender and moving conclusion. Readers will find this a captivating story, leading many to read it in one sitting.