Casey Schillinge is a vivacious young woman on the verge of making her mark on the world. While backpacking, she is struck down by a tropical disease and suffers cardiac failure. But at the eleventh hour, Casey receives a life-saving heart transplant – and a rare second chance to begin again.
Three years later, Casey has become a withdrawn shell of her former self: she is estranged from her loved ones, afraid of open spaces and rides the line between legitimate and criminal work. The worst of her troubles come in the form of violent night terrors; so frightening that she resorts to extreme measures to keep herself from sleeping. When she can take no more, she embarks on a desperate search for the source of her dreams. In so doing, she makes a shocking discovery surrounding the tragic fate of the donor whose heart now beats inside her chest. As she delves deeper into the mystery of her donor, she realises her dreams are not a figment of her imagination, but a real life nightmare.
Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.
I was engaged with this story from the beginning; Mayes’ narration pulls you in slowly and nicely into Casey’s life and the life of those around her. He tells the story with a great varying style and intensity based on what’s happening which really helps to enhance what’s going on.
Set in Melbourne it was great to read about trams and St Kilda and all these familiar locations, reading stories set in Oz is never tiring. Maye’s makes it feel like any other place though, and if you aren’t familiar with Melbourne or even Australia it doesn’t affect the story because Mayes creates a vivid picture in your mind.
Each character is interesting and defined, while not everyone needed a full back story their placement in the story and Casey’s life felt natural and solid. You easily accept the people around her and take them on their face value about who they are as a person. Seeing their patience tested and their love and support for Casey fracture brings them to life and seeing them try to cope with her demons tells you a lot about them and their different relationships. This is also added to by the occasional perspectives we’re given of people other than Casey.
These point of view changes are seamless and mostly brief. Mayes doesn’t dedicate chapters to different characters; instead he weaves tiny snippets and thoughts around Casey’s. These small brief moments of insight into other characters offer so much and offer a nice outside perspective to what she is experiencing. I really loved this because if was so cleverly done, it suited the story so well, but also because it was interesting to see the world outside of Casey’s viewpoint. Seeing Casey’s struggle, seeing her trying to cope was captivating on its own, but having it offset with thoughts and observations of those around her made it something greater, especially with her reluctance to divulge any information. Casey doesn’t know what she is dealing with, but she also doesn’t share what she’s dealing with either which adds another layer of complexity to the story. Even though we know about the nightmares in part, it’s fascinating to see it from the other side, with parents and doctors trying to break through to her and find out what’s haunting her.
I loved Casey in this, as terrible as it sounds I loved seeing her struggle and her anguish, I think Mayes tells her story so well you can’t help but admire even the bad stuff. Her isolation and her fears come across so well on the page and when she reaches breaking point it feels real and you totally get why she shuts herself down from the world. I loved so many of the characters, even with their flaws, I loved Scott’s devotion and Lionel’s patience, I loved her parents who try their best but can only do so much. It was wonderful seeing everyone grow and change together, for better and for worse.
Mayes has created a great story, it’s engaging and compelling, and there’s a strange mysteriousness about it without it straying too far from the contemporary fiction side, just the hint of the unknown. This is a great story because there’s so much filling it but not all of it’s important detail; it’s just everyday life filled with bobble head sasquatches and tense relationships with parents, but sometimes seemingly unimportant conversations can take on new meaning and it plays with what you think you know. I liked that not everything that happened was supposed to have meaning; it brings it down to earth and makes you remember not everything has an ulterior motive.
Having said that, while it doesn’t read like a mystery there is a mysterious element that needs solving. It’s a story of a woman who is trying to stop her nightmares any way she can and this is the only way she knows how. It’s easy to criticise Casey’s choices in this, especially once she starts following the clues, but when you realise that while those around her only have been dealing with this for a few weeks, she’s been tormented with this for three years so you understand why she wants to solve this, and for that you can forgive a lot of her actions.
There are surprises and twists in this that you really don’t expect and the thrill only heightens the closer you get to the end. Mayes takes us on Casey’s journey, through the before and the after and from start to finish it helps you understand her, sympathise with her, and want to help her. It’s a wonderful read and one that keeps you entertained and guessing all the way through.
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