During a bad storm, 17 year old Eva is thrown overboard. Later, her life jacket is found floating in the ocean. Her father (Max) has no memory of whether she was wearing it or not and his wife (Clara) can’t forgive him for it. The mix of anger and grief is causing their marriage to crumble. None of this helping their younger daughter, Faith, who is convinced Eva is still alive and being kept from coming home by the Wild Man of local legend.
Faith is right. Not so much about the Wild Man but about Eva. She is being held captive on an island just off the coast by a former soldier, Billy, who is suffering – it seems – from PTSD from his time serving in Northern Ireland. After finding Eva on the beach, he is keeping her trapped in a bunker rather than getting her home to her family because “She” told him to. The problem is “She” isn’t real, just a voice in Billy’s head that hasn’t told him what to do now he’s saved Eva.
Told from multiple viewpoints, including Eva and Faith, Clara and Max, but not Billy and with flashbacks to Clara and Max’s early life (because there is a family secret to be revealed too), the story is not just about whether anyone will listen to Faith or Eva figure out how to escape but also Eva’s relationship with Billy, which changes as the book progresses and she gets to understand just what happened to him in Northern Ireland.
Their relationship is an interesting one, though not necessarily the most original (I read something similar in The Good Girl recently) but it’s done well and feels real. It also allows for an ending I didn’t expect and liked because it left me feeling satisfied and like everything had actually been tied up nicely without being too conventional. It also left me wondering just what was next for the Eva and Billy.
The story builds well, keeping the tension going throughout, and Saskia Sarginson does a good job of creating a sense of place, including how cold and remote Eva must have felt on the island. I also quite liked that it was set in the early/mid-80s as I was a teenager myself then so had a few flashback moments to my attempts to be a goth like Eva. The only thing that drove me a little potty was that Clara and Max wouldn’t listen to Faith – though it would have a short book if they had I suppose. This didn’t put me off though, and I found myself not being able to put this book down. A real page turner and highly enjoyable.