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Always Watching: A Novel Paperback – May 6, 2014
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“In ALWAYS WATCHING, Chevy Stevens begins with a shivery premise --- a family ensnared by a religious cult led by a madman. Stevens lights that fuse and lets it burn all the way to an explosive ending. A chilling, compelling read.” ―William Landay, author of DEFENDING JACOB
“ALWAYS WATCHING is a riveting examination of the power of childhood secrets over our past and our present selves. I couldn't put it down.” ―Alafair Burke, author of IF YOU WERE HERE
“Chevy Stevens is in top form. ALWAYS WATCHING is a tense and twisty exploration of dark memories, hidden pasts, and a place that seems like heaven but might be hell. This is a deep and exciting novel, as unsettling as it is gripping.” ―Lisa Unger, author of HEARTBROKEN
“Haunting and harrowing, ALWAYS WATCHING is a stunner, offering not only consuming suspense but also a moving tale of mothers and daughters, the lingering echoes of the past that never stop reverberating.” ―Megan Abbott, author of DARE ME
“A fantastic, heart-pounding thriller that pulls you in from the first page. I loved it!” ―Lisa Jackson, author of YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW
“ALWAYS WATCHING grabbed me from page one. Its story of power, murder, and family secrets is seductive and sinister. Dr. Nadine Lavoie is a tenacious, compassionate heroine.” ―Meg Gardiner, author of RANSOM RIVER
“Taut and riveting, ALWAYS WATCHING follows the fault line between a person’s past and present ― and the terror and turmoil that can pull a life apart when they collide with the force of an earthquake. Chevy Stevens’ suspenseful, twisted story kept me up late into the night, frantically turning pages with white-knuckled fingers.” ―Hilary Davidson, author of THE NEXT ONE TO FALL
“Chevy Stevens intelligently and relentlessly pulls the reader deeper into a nightmarish world while compelling you to read just one more page…” ―Rosamund Lupton, author of SISTER
“A harrowing tale of manipulation that got under my skin by the end of the first chapter…” ―Linwood Barclay, author of TRUST YOUR EYES
About the Author
CHEVY STEVENS grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still lives on the island with her husband and daughter. When she's not working on her next book, she's camping and canoeing with her family in the local mountains. Her debut novel, Still Missing, won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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Dr. Nadine Lavoie is a psychiatrist wallowing in guilt. She has guilt feelings about daughter Lisa, who is living on the street somewhere. She feels guilty about her druggie mom who she could not help. She feels guilt about the death of Heather, one of her patients. This is a lot of guilt for a psychiatrist. A lot of the guilt involves repressed memories of child sexual abuse.
Not to be left out, psychiatrist brother Robbie feels guilty for neglecting his sister (before she was a psychiatrist). Mary feels guilty about her earlier life in a cult commune. Aaron, a cult leader feels guilty, but that is OK, because he is guilty (not a spoiler). Daniel feels guilty about dead wife and former psychiatric patient Heather.
Around page 311 there is a fire at a cult center where lots of innocent people die, but few guilty ones. I have a feeling I may have reached a conclusion. But no, we have 26 more pages to discover the various ways the surviving guilt ridden people attempt to resolve their guilt.
I can't recall a character that was not constantly wallowing in guilt. There may have been a few of Nadine's patients that were not, but they were institutionalized with other problems. I found it difficult to believe that with all the guilt Nadine exhibited she could ethically fulfill the demands of her profession regarding patients.
The preponderant theme of pervasive guilt made this a slow moving story.
In flashbacks, we learn more about Nadine's childhood and the experiences that have left their mark.
But it is not until a tragic event involving Heather, that Nadine actively begins trying to remember what might have happened to her as a child. And what might be happening to others.
Meanwhile, Nadine's daughter Lisa is living on the streets, using drugs, and resisting any and all efforts for help. Something about the extreme rage coming from her daughter whenever she sees her is like a twist of the knife, but also something more.
Why is Nadine unable to help her own daughter? What events have disrupted Nadine's life to the extent that she now suffers from claustrophobia and panic attacks? And what might be beneath the surface and causing Lisa to lash out at everyone?
Not a typical mystery, Always Watching is the story of one woman's journey toward uncovering the secrets of her past and finding a way to reconnect with her daughter. As in "physician heal thyself," Nadine is trying to do just that.
From the streets of Victoria to Shawnigan, the small town where the old commune existed, Nadine searches for answers...and for witnesses. Will she find them before Aaron gets his clutches into her own vulnerable daughter?
While the suspense is of a different kind, I found it captivating. As a retired social worker, I could relate to the "helper" who encounters victims that are unwilling or unable to report what is happening to them. I also connect with how one's own problems add to one's ability to empathize, but sometimes intrude on the actual helping.
Another unique feature to this story: the psychiatrist who is the central character in this book was a secondary one in the previous two books by this author: Still Missing and Never Knowing.
The settings and characters were beautifully drawn and shown to the reader in a way that brought me into the time and place of the story. Because the pace was slow, with secrets revealed gradually throughout most of the story, I was pleasantly surprised when the pace quickened, with the last few chapters intensely leading to the final denouement. While I was leaning toward four stars, I am now awarding this one 4.5 stars. This is a book for those who enjoy stories about secrets, family dynamics, and family dysfunction.