Have you read either of these two books? If you have, chances are it’s The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins. It’s gotten huge buzz and justifiably so, no matter what your final opinion is. But there’s another book that came out about the same time with a similar title that has gotten nearly lost in the hoopla over the Hawkins book: The Stranger on the Train, by Abbie Taylor. I liked them both. The title alone of the Taylor book, so reminiscent of the classic Patricia Highsmith novel, grabbed my attention, as did the blurb and reviews. The Hawkins book gives a searing look at what it’s like to be an alcoholic. The Taylor book, on the other hand, gives an equally disturbing picture of what it’s like to suffer from depression. And that’s what so impressed me about the novel. Being able to describe what the world feels and looks like for someone suffering from depression is a rare thing in literature. I have not read The Bell Jar (though it’s now on my list.) The other exemplar that I am aware of is Darkness Visible, by William Styron, although it’s a memoir, not a novel. Getting across what a depressed person experiences is, in my opinion, a nearly impossible task, but Taylor gets it right. It’s a relief to see one’s own experience expressed with such understanding. I’ve never been an alcoholic, but Hawkins’ description of that condition is also illuminating. Neither of these authors is judgmental about their main characters, but neither do they shy away from realism. The protagonists both eventually get the help they need. Their struggles, so well rendered, give both books a richness sometimes not found in mystery novels, which, while they may have been wildly entertaining, often vanish from my memory as soon as I finish them. These novels, on the other hand, still resonate in my mind today, a year after I read them.
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Sisters in Crime