Watching Edie by Camilla Way
I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks so much to the publisher and the website for granting me the opportunity to read an ARC of this.
Camilla Way’s Watching Edie follows the story of Edie: a thirty-something pregnant woman who is haunted by something that happened when she was a teenager. Edie has no support system: she left her home – and her mother – after said monumental event, and moved from her small town to London. She has no friends. Her baby’s father is not in the picture; the only people she can rely on are her uncle and herself. When Edie’s daughter is born, she is faced with seemingly insurmountable grief and loneliness. And right when Edie is dire need of help and support, her friend from high school – Heather – shows up on her doorstep. All the memories and feelings Edie thought she had left in the past come surging back, and she comes to realize that we never really escape our past; it’s always lurking in the shadows, waiting to come out.
After seeing the words, “for fans of Gone Girl” on the Goodreads page, I was naturally apprehensive. I’ve read at least four or five books that are marketed with the same punch-line, yet all of them have been disappointing. Watching Edie, however, was far from a disappointment. It immediately draws the reader in with its writing style. Although the voice isn’t mesmerizing, or the most unique, it is so refreshingly welcoming in its effortless simplicity that the reader flies through the narrative. Not only that but it feels authentic. I have lived in London, and the slang used, the way the dialogue was structured felt so realistic. It flowed beautifully and I was completely engrossed in the story.
Way also makes an intelligent and effective decision to vary both point of view and time; half of the story is told in the present from Edie’s point of view, the other half from Heather’s perspective back when the two girls were in high school. The result is a fast-paced, well-rounded story, and the reader scrambles to connect the dots, to piece together the puzzle that seems so close yet so far.
The dual perspective also did wonders for characterization; characters can be tricky to fully flesh out in thrillers and mysteries, simply because these genres tend to focus so much on plot and logical progression. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve loved a thriller’s plot but ultimately have been disappointed because the characters felt flat. However, the dual-perspective in Watching Edie fleshes out both characters’ personalities wonderfully. Edie is wild and beautiful; in high school, she was someone every guy wanted to be with, who every girl wanted to be. Right now, her loneliness and despair are pressing down on her, threatening to suffocate her, showing us just how vulnerable even the people who seem invincible can be. Heather used to be the quiet girl, the one everyone called a “weirdo” because she kept to herself. She’s still reeling from a tragic loss, her mother is overbearing, and her father has little to no interest in her. Way evokes from her readers such a deep sympathy for this almost pathetic character. Flash forward to the present and Heather is… strange. Gone is the little girl who just wanted some love- from Edie’s perspective, we get to know someone who’s unhinged, or maybe even dangerous.
It’s always slightly alarming to realize how books can be so thought-provoking. When looked at Edie from Heather’s perspective, we saw a wild girl who had little to no control over herself and faced dire consequences for her foolish decisions. We see Heather as a young girl who just yearns for friendship and love, yet gets none, even though she depends so fully on other people to return the love and care she grants to them without restraint. From Edie’s perspective, we see Heather as obsessive and – like I said – even dangerous, but Edie has our sympathy now. She’s the single mother who’s just trying to move on with her life, who’s trying to deal with everything that’s happened. Did our characters change this much? Or do we just see them differently because they are viewed from another lens? It just goes to show that everybody is the hero of their own story. And the portrayal of this theme is subtle, but effective.
As for the plot itself, it kept me hooked and had me guessing throughout. Way gives her reader just the right amount of information at just the right time. She leaves us wondering exactly what happened between the two girls, how this strange story of friendship, obsession and yearning changed and became something that haunts Edie seventeen years later. Ultimately, I was completely satisfied – albeit horrified – with the answer. Way wrapped up the story brilliantly and gave our characters fates they were completely deserving of. And while the story definitely had its slower, less interesting moments, the ending made everything worth it.