Sometimes surviving is enough – “I’d Know You Anywhere” by Laura Lippman

November 13, 2011 at 8:56 pm 1 comment

“I’d Know You Anywhere” by Laura Lippman, Published in 2010

Cover of "I'd Know You Anywhere: A Novel&...

Cover of I'd Know You Anywhere: A Novel

This book is well done and I liked it.  My caveat: This is a tough read and I think being a mother made it even harder to read.

Eliza is a happily married, stay-at-mother of two children. Her life is average and that is the way she likes it.  All of this “average” is interrupted one day when she receives a letter from Walter, the serial killer who had kidnapped Eliza for 40 days when she was fifteen years old.  She was the only girl that he didn’t kill.  Now Walter is sitting on death row and his execution date is set, but in his last few weeks he wants to talk to Eliza.

Eliza has been trying to avoid everything that happened to her, in both an effort to make her children’s lives easier and to try to just exist as normally as possible.  And perhaps most importantly, her attempt to leave her past behind is really the only thing she can control about her past.

As a part of this control, Eliza decides to speak to Walter in an attempt to limit the possible damage he could do to her current life.  But as Walter’s execution date gets closer, Eliza finds her tight rein on her life slipping and she is contacted by both an anti-death penalty zealot and the mother of one of the other of Walter’s victims.  One hates Eliza for her unwillingness to be controlled by Walter’s request to help him live and the other hates Eliza for living while her daughter is dead. Eliza finds herself, again, caught between what she needs to do for herself to survive and everyone else’s notion of what is truth and what is right.

Lippman is delicate in how she treats the violence in this book.  She alludes to it without dwelling on it and without unnecessary graphic details.  Though, regardless, as I said before this book can be hard to read in parts. Lippman also tries to address the death penalty issue by looking both at what it accomplishes in terms of justice and how we, as a society, accept this type of retribution.  It is good overview of both sides of this issue but it avoids becoming preachy or overbearing while keeping the writing focused on the story.

What makes this book unique is how Lippman takes a really hard look at the fact that sometimes the gift of surviving is a tough gift to own.  Because Eliza was the only girl to survive Walter, she is looked at by the justice system only as a key witness not a victim. She also has to put up with a lot of speculation about why Walter let her go (surely she must have been his girlfriend or accomplice).  All of this is merely the sideshow to the fact that Eliza suffered a life changing, devastating theft of her childhood that she will never fully recover.  So Eliza’s life must be forever a balance between the guilt she feels for surviving while being grateful that, for whatever reason, she did in fact survive.  As the reader, when I looked at Eliza’s choices throughout her life  I questioned her.  I think we all think that if we were in these dire situations we would be better, stronger, braver but really sometimes all that a person can do is survive.  And Lippman makes it clear that just surviving has to be okay.

For more thoughts on this book:

I’d Know You Anywhere- Book Review

Book Review: I’d Know You Anywere by Laura Lippman

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Entry filed under: November 2011 reads. Tags: , , , .

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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