I Choose You by Gayle Curtis
“Mental illness is sickness of the mind caused by the constant overwhelming battle one has with one’s essence, beliefs and purpose.” (I Choose You, p. 235)
If this is the definition of mental illness, then the only sane person in the novel, I Choose You, is the serial killer (ironically the one responsible for this quote). All the rest of the characters seem at odds with their true selves, and quite frankly with one another. Elise has decided her latest child, Buddy, is a changeling and tries to steal another couple’s baby. She and her husband, Nathaniel are at each other’s throats, even as their teenage daughter lies comatose in a hospital bed. Elise’s father entertains violent schizophrenics at the house while the grandkids are visiting. And to top it all off, the number one cause of death in the family appears to be a self-administered gunshot wound to the head. This group is so dysfunctional they make the Osbornes look like the Osmonds. And yet, in so many ways, they are like any other family who have seen their share of conflict and tragedy. I was impressed by how Curtis pulled the many story and character threads along without ever getting tangled. That being said, not all of the characters rang true for me. I often felt a bit confused by character motivations. But I LOVED the killer, who we hear from throughout the book. Perhaps this says something about me, and you are welcome to imagine what that is.
Between lying to themselves and each other though, there really isn’t one reliable narrator in the lot. This makes for some fascinating reading. We are often told partial truths, that cause us to make assumptions, that later get blown out of the water like so many dynamited fish. A lot of writers make you wait until the end to rain down those shiny reveals, but Gayle Curtis chums the waters with epiphanies throughout the chapters, keeping the reader on the hook. I never felt like I knew quite for sure what was going on. But I have seen the future, in the form of my elderly nana who would hide the ranch dressing for fear of being chopped up for salad, so I figure this is a state with which I must become familiar. In fact, looking at the number of fish metaphors in this review, perhaps I am not far from having my condiment privileges revoked.
A lovely dark piece of domestic noir with multiple plot twists and characters to keep you busy. As I said, the killer was my favourite, and you’d be surprised how often evil characters make or break a good piece of fiction. Remember, whether someone is a villain or a hero, really depends on who’s telling the story.
To find out more about Gayle Curtis and her books go to https://www.fantasticfiction.com/c/gayle-curtis/