OPEN YOUR EYES by Paula Daly
Grove Press; 10/9/18
CBTB Rating: 4/5
The Verdict: Original and chillingly realistic suspense
In an instant, the life you know can be taken away. That’s the premise of Paula Daly’s sharp and thoughtful domestic suspense novel OPEN YOUR EYES, available in the US tomorrow (October 9, 2018). Centering around the wife of a bestselling crime writer, OPEN YOUR EYES confronts readers with the terrible ways that our ordinary could become anything but. When a brutal crime leaves Jane Campbell’s husband Leon in a coma, Jane is forced to pull the proverbial wool from her own eyes and confront the secrets her husband has been keeping hidden from her. As Jane plumbs the depths of her husband’s secret life, she finds that her tranquil existence has been a facade—and that what lies beneath is more troubling than she could ever have imagined. Daly writes deftly about ordinary life; OPEN YOUR EYES is a subtle and nuanced suspense novel that will best suit readers looking for a story made chilling by its plausibility. This is not a story defined by shocking violence or twists—it’s a story that is unsettling because of how closely the lives of its characters resemble the lives we ourselves lead. Readers will find protagonist Jane an acquired taste, but the deeper she digs into the truth of her own life - and the more agency and independence she develops in the process - the more they will root for her. OPEN YOUR EYES is tense, chilling reading material, and a breath of fresh air in the domestic thriller genre.
Jane Campbell avoids confrontation at any costs. Given the choice, she’ll always let her husband, Leon―a bestselling crime writer―take the lead, while she focuses on her two precious young children and her job as a creative writing teacher. After she receives another rejection for her novel, Leon urges Jane to put her hobby to rest. And why shouldn’t she, when through Jane’s rose-tinted glasses, they appear to have the perfect house and the perfect life?
But then Leon is brutally attacked in their driveway while their children wait quietly in the car, and suddenly, their perfect life becomes the stuff of nightmares. Who would commit such a hateful offense in broad daylight? With her husband in a coma, Jane must open her eyes to the problems in her life, as well as the secrets that have been kept from her. Although she might not like what she sees, if she’s committed to discovering who hurt her husband―and why―Jane must take matters into her own hands.
In a genre that can so often veer off into the dramatic, it’s sometimes most shocking of all to find a grounded, realistic psychological suspense novel that can captivate and surprise as much as its over-the-top peers—all without the bells and whistles. OPEN YOUR EYES by Paula Daly is one such book. The strength of this story does not lie in jaw-dropping twists or earth-shattering revelations; rather, it lies in the ability of the author to take the ordinary and push its boundaries just enough that the reader realizes how fragile that “ordinary” really is. In OPEN YOUR EYES, readers meet a couple who don’t necessarily have it all - but they certainly have more than enough. Jane and Leon are happily married, and parents to two beautiful young children. Leon is the family breadwinner; he earns a living as the writer of a bestselling series of crime novels. Jane is herself an aspiring author, but when we meet her, she has set aside her professional aspirations at her husband’s suggestion, focusing instead on raising their children. Jane is happy to follow Leon’s lead—she can see no harm in allowing her husband to deal with life’s practicalities and challenges. But everything is about to change. While preparing for a family outing one day, Jane’s quiet existence comes to a screeching halt when Leon is attacked in their driveway. Now, with her husband in a coma, Jane is thrown off the proverbial deep end - and straight into the troubling secrets Leon had been keeping from her for years.
Structurally, OPEN YOUR EYES distinguishes itself from its peers right from the outset. The story’s main act of violence is committed within the book’s opening pages; while readers will have a few smaller altercations and confrontations in store for them as they continue to read, this attack - one that we all know is coming simply by reading the book’s plot description - remains the story’s most significant moment of violence. Rather than relying on blood and gore to build a sense of alarm in her suspense novel, Daly relies on the psychological complexity of her characters’ reactions to Leon’s attack. OPEN YOUR EYES hinges in large part on readers’ investment in the development of protagonist Jane. Put yourself in Jane’s shoes for a moment. What if the one person you relied on to provide for you and handle the business of life were suddenly taken away? What would your life look like? What would you have to learn how to handle, and how would you do all of this while also looking after two small children? The implications of Leon’s incapacitation are earth-shattering for Jane. OPEN YOUR EYES is, then, as much a mystery as it is an affecting portrait of a woman grappling with personal tragedy - and of that very same woman finding the strength within herself to take charge of her own life. Daly vividly conveys the enormity of the tasks with which Jane is faced, and readers will respond viscerally to the seeming impossibility of her to-do list. Because all Jane has to do to get her life back in order is find a job, raise two children, care for her incapacitated husband, and, lest we forget, figure out who tried to murder her husband in the first place.
As Jane peels back the layers of deceit in her marriage, she discovers that all is not as it seems with Leon’s writing career—and that the very foundation of their family’s financial stability might be rotten. It’s very difficult to discuss this component of the story without spoiling anything (which you know I would never do!), but suffice it to say that the revelations Jane has about her husband make for thoroughly entertaining - if also thoroughly stress-inducing - reading material. Readers interested in the publishing world will find lots of engaging details to sink their teeth into here; Daly draws readers into the nitty-gritty of the industry as Jane pieces together the truth about her husband’s career. I’m a personal fan of crime novels about writers, and OPEN YOUR EYES delivers a superb example of just what makes these kinds of books so entertaining. There’s something voyeuristic - but undeniably fun - about peeking behind the curtains and into the process that brings the crime books we love to life. Daly’s recipe for success here involves a largely true to life portrayal of the publishing process, with a dash of drama mixed in to keep things fresh and gripping. Crime readers will be hooked on this story of crime writer turned crime victim, and they will find Daly’s bookish mystery a hugely satisfying one to piece together.
OPEN YOUR EYES is a precisely-plotted domestic suspense novel that will suit readers looking for a fresh, taut, evenly-paced crime read. Unlike many of its peers - and to the delight of this reader! - OPEN YOUR EYES doesn’t rely on unreliable narrators or out-of-left-field twists to keep its readers hooked. Instead, Daly draws readers in with a premise that is chilling for its relatability—and she keeps readers hooked with strong character development and masterfully placed clues. By the end of this book, readers will find a sense of justice not only in the resolution of the story’s central mystery, but perhaps even more importantly, in the self-actualization of protagonist Jane. Pick up OPEN YOUR EYES for its striking cover, stay for its gripping story of literary bliss turned very wrong.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Grove Press (October 9, 2018)
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