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on February 22, 2015
The problem with reading a lot is that you get spoiled, very spoiled. To find The Girl in the box was like finding best quality beef steak strewn with truffle after eating junk food for half a year.

Dalton is not afraid to dive in to unpleasant subjects, she done her research.
She also draw attention to the horrid situation in Guatemala and the situations of the mayas and the toll of a 36-year civil war. Amnesty international estimate that 200 000 was killed or vanished (and lets face it, that usually means undiscovered mass graves) During the 1981 and 1982 genocide, 70 and 90 percent of the communities were wiped out in the Ixil, Zacualpa, northern Huehuetenango and Rabinal areas of Guatemala. This is the world of the girl in the box; Inez before psychoanalyst Dr. Jerry Simpson brings her to Canada.

The characters are fully rounded, interesting and complex personalities. I ended up liking a person in one page, dislike them on the next and back to liking them again. They are faulty like real humans are, they do mistakes. Sheila Dalton gives you no 15 minutes Dr. Phil style fix like so many lesser authors would nor does she resort to two boxes of Kleenex sentimentality.

I highly recommend this book, it’s not an easy book for a read the beach. But it’s worth your time. But if you prefer books with: It was Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Candlestick solutions, you should most likely shy away from it.
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on March 13, 2015
While this book had an interesting plot, and some good dialogue, it was too depressing for my taste. There is violence that made me uncomfortable, and what I found was a strange attitude to God and religion - the Mayan girl has some kind of spirituality I didn’t understand, while the Canadian characters were atheists, as far as I could tell. I also did not appreciate the drug use. Caitlin, the main character, was, in my opinion, less than ethical, and the doctor, Jerry, had too many mixed qualities - sometimes you like him, and then you don’t, and I could never get a handle on him. Some may like this book, but it wasn’t for me, though I read through to the end because, despite everything, it was a page-turner.
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on March 26, 2013
The Girl in the BoxSheila Dalton's novel, The Girl in the Box, begins as Jeremy (Jerry) Simpson, a somewhat idealistic, Canadian psychoanalyst in his early forties, visits civil war torn Guatemala in the early 1980's on a quest to research psychogenic drugs used by Mayan Shamans. By chance, he is led to a severely abused, mute, quasi- autistic, young Mayan woman, Inez, chained in a box in the jungle. Inez's parents are refugees in the jungle trying to avoid massacre by the government and manipulation from the guerillas. Jerry's heart goes out to the beautiful but tortured young woman. When her parents ask him to take her back to Canada with him, he does.

Jerry's long-term love interest, Caitlin Shaughnessy, a free-lance, investigative reporter, apprehensively supports Jerry's decision. Caitlin and Jerry maintain separate residences. Inez lives with Jerry who hires a psychiatric nurse to help manage Inez until a proper long-term treatment facility can be found. Inez is an enigma, displaying emotions from pure love to intense anger and rage. Caitlin becomes concerned. One morning Jerry is found dead in his library. Inez, covered in blood, is seated beside him.

The crux of the novel is Dalton's superb character development of Caitlin. This is literary fiction at its finest. I am a big fan of using the first person point of view in character development--Dalton is a master at this. So profound was the introspection upon which Caitlin embarked to solve the mysteries surrounding her lover's murder, that I found myself developing a deep empathy for her. I even began musing about points in my life where I had to make similar decisions about myself. Dalton uses third person for all the other characters, focusing mainly on Jerry's character development. The choice of third person for Jerry somehow makes him more remote than Caitlin, restricting my empathy towards him.

Dalton has a gift with words, managing to arrange them in breath-taking sentences: "Blood and the sun were the pattern of her days and nights; pain and despair, interrupted by beauty--the soft pull of the scarlet sun; islands of cloud punctuating the run-on blue of the sky; huge scarlet blooms gashing the old wooden fences, brick walls mad with colour, and shadows, like black hands, moving." Although her dialogue is vivid and believable, I found myself craving for more of her beautiful narrative descriptions. In Dalton's case, less is most definitely not better when it comes to narrative, and I hope she provides us with a plethora of beautiful images in future novels.

The plot of the mystery was believable, but not complicated. Mystery readers probably would like a bit more challenge. I was a bit disappointed that the bad guy was a predictable dandy and a wimp. Nevertheless, this novel is not meant to be a production-type mystery-vacation read. The Girl in the Box is a true examination of the human heart and Dalton delivers it brilliantly.
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on November 17, 2011
Shelia Dalton's The Girl in the Box is a wonderfully constructed and intricately woven tale of a mute, seemingly autistic, teenage girl who is rescued from a deplorable existence in the Guatemalan jungle. Chained and made to live in a windowless shed by her parents, Jerry, a Canadian psychoanalyst on vacation, rescues the girl by bringing her back home with him to Canada.

The novel begins with Jerry's murder at the hands of the girl, Inez. This story is not a who dunnit, but instead delves into the why of it. After Jerry's murder, his life partner, Caitlin is compelled to explore the workings of the damaged girl's mind in an attempt to put the pieces together. Did the beautiful teenager kill Jerry because of something he did? This question haunts Caitlin and drives her to find answers.

Dalton takes us from Guatamala to Toronto to Labrador and we go willingly, unable to put the book down until we discover, along with Caitlin, the truth behind the murder.

The Girl in the Box is a wonderful read. Dalton possesses genuine literary talent and I was greatly impressed. A five star read that I can't recommend highly enough.
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on December 31, 2011
The Girl in the Box is an intelligently written book with a carefully constructed plot that keeps the reader thinking throughout. The reader must try to understand why Jerry, a Canadian psychoanalyst, was killed by the girl named Inez whom he rescued from the Guatemalan jungle and who, in a highly unconventional move, then became his live-in patient. As Caitlin, his partner, struggles to understand, so does the reader; but gradually the layers are lifted and things fall into place in a surprising conclusion. Reading about the strife that engulfed Guatemala and the long-term repercussions felt by its people, all of which is explored by Canadian characters, brings in some cross-cultural perspectives not often found together and makes the book unique. Sheila Dalton is a highly skilled writer who has given us a great read.
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on December 1, 2016
Good book especially since it was based on truth.
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on October 30, 2016
Could not put it down. Now I have to see the movie
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on July 31, 2012
I almost never stop reading a book half-way through. My mom brought me up to finish everything on my plate and to read a book from beginning to end. But I just couldn't do it with "The Girl in the Box." The premise is intriguing, and the writing is decent. Other people have loved it. A friend recommended it so highly that I immediately downloaded the Kindle version. But, oh dear. The book is a series of lectures punctuated by a story line. Dialog tends toward diatribe. It's a barely veiled series of polemics with a thin sugar-coating of plot and character. If I had wanted a book of essays, I would have bought one.
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on February 9, 2012
A number of months ago, I came across the unfamiliar term "literary fiction". What is Literary Fiction? There are various definitions and opinions, but the one that stood out for me is that with Literary Fiction "what is really important are the thoughts, desires, and motivations of the characters as well as the underlying social and cultural threads that act upon them". (Nathan Bransford) ("What Makes Literary Fiction Literary")

For me, "The Girl in the Box" is Literary Fiction. In the character of Caitlin Shaughnessy, as much as we think we know her thoughts, desires, and motivations, as the novel evolves so do these aspects of Caitlin's personality. And in some ways, without even knowing it, the reader seeks that evolution, and the author delivers.

The human conditions existing in Guatemala are among the subjects tackled by Sheila Dalton. This book speaks to human relationships of love, friendship, trust, jealousy, pain, suffering, and enlightenment. The characters are complex and the plot line is intricate and deftly woven by the author.

The storyline is not linear, but rather, it is told from various characters' perspective, back and forth over a time span of approximately six months. This means the reader must stay focused on who is speaking and telling the tale. I truly enjoy novels written in this style - it keeps me interested in `who will speak next'! If the reader is one who enjoys fiction with a chronological plot line, this book may be a challenge.

While not technically highlighted as a mystery novel, there were many elements of mystery throughout this novel. I found the most intriguing mysteries were between the characters, how relationships developed, changed, grew, and in some cases, deteriorated.

"The Girl in the Box" caught my attention before I finished the first page. And it still had my attention on the last page. I will qualify that by saying that, in the first part of the second half of the book I found the story started to slow down, and I found it a little tougher reading. There was a lot of descriptive narrative, and a lot of introspection by the character of Caitlin Shaughnessy. I found it slowed the pace of the novel, and I resisted the urge to skip a few pages. (I was really much too afraid I would miss something good!)

There was an added bonus to reading this book, and that was: Education. It is very clear that Sheila Dalton has an impressive knowledge of Guatemala, and the various political and social conflicts that have plagued that region for many years. It is also eye opening to know that a number of these conflicts are current or recent history in nature. These also incorporate international issues that can affect everyday people, like you and I.

The murder victim's life story included professional jealousies that exist specifically in the mental health profession, and generally within many professions today - and yesterday! It forces all of us to think twice about how we treat our co-workers on any level.

Although not planned this way, my review is coinciding with Mental Health Awareness in Canada. The challenge is to remove the stigma of mental health illness that continues to exist. While the character of Inez is at an extreme end of a spectrum, the way other characters react to her, and around her, is reminiscent of how mental health is often both overlooked and ignored. This is, as is probably clear, often detrimental to both the individual, and those around them.

As a psychological drama, "The Girl in the Box" pulls the reader deeply into the lives of the characters. As a work of Literary Fiction, the motivations of the characters become intriguing puzzles. As a mystery, the ending brings everything together in one place, ties all the connections together.

To say that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel sounds trite given the nature of the book. But, it is true! I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I surprised myself by my depth of involvement with the characters. The book became more about the characters, than about solving the murder mystery. I grew in my knowledge of some international issues. And the ending was one I accepted on an emotional level.

What more could I ask for?

In keeping with the theme of my blog, I ask myself "Where is the Joy?" in this book, in this review. Joy is an emotion we can choose. For me, the Joy in this book is found in the small shared moments of the characters with each other.

So very real.
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on February 11, 2016
‘The Girl in the Box’ is a literary thriller about the murder of an eminent psychologist, Jerry Simpson, by a teenage girl who he rescues from poverty, and possibly domestic abuse, in Guatemala. Told in a series of flashbacks, the main protagonist is Caitlin, Jerry’s lover, as she attempts to discover the truth about the killing. But what sounds as if it could be standard fare is actually a beautifully crafted, meditative and thoughtful page-turner.

Sheila Dalton uses the devices of a whydunnit to mount a delicately told examination of two characters – Jerry and Caitlin – that probes not only their individual stories but also how couples come together, grow together and find a way of navigating through all the complexities of love and work. Caitlin is especially well drawn. The prose throughout is fresh and evocative, whether it’s describing the frozen north of the Labrador Sea or in its descriptions of Guatemala. The Guatemalan sections are another strong point of the novel telling this reader about a conflict and civil war he knew nothing about. I always think that the best novels not only entertain but educate.

The liquid timelines can occasionally be a challenge to follow but the effort is worth it. You will be rewarded by a novel that manages to be intelligent, poignant, wry, and even erotic. The mystery of Inez, the eponymous girl, will grab you – but it is the characters that keep you reading and will stay in your mind long after you’ve finished.
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