Book Review: The Exit, By Helen Fitzgerald

The Exit Helen FitzgeraldIf psychological thrillers are your thing and you haven’t read work by Australian author Helen Fitzgerald then get your skates on. You can start with The Cry (Faber & Faber, 2013) which Fitzgerald perfectly tunes, throttling the narrative forward at a steady pace until the reader is racing along at a fevered pitch, white-knuckled and desperate to know what happened to Noah – Joanna and Alistair’s newborn son who was apparently taken from the couple’s hire car. The case becomes fodder for a media firestorm and, as events continue to disintegrate, Fitzgerald’s prose patches the reader directly into Joanna’s decent into madness and Alistair’s suspiciously cool detachment. It’s one – must read – to find out if all is what it seems.

The Cry should be enough to whet your appetite while you wait for the release of Fitzgerald’s latest novel, The Exit (Faber & Faber, February 5, 2013). The Exit deftly alternates between the points of view of Catherine, a beautiful 23-year-old whose world revolves around social media, flirting, and partying; and Rose, an 82-year-old children’s author who suffers from dementia and fades in and out of her present self to her 10-year-old self.

The novel opens with Catherine who lives at home, has huge credit card bills, a steady diet of shallow relationships, and no real ambition other than to dodge conflict with her obsessive, hyper-organized mother who has finally cracked the whip – insisting that Catherine gets a job. To appease her mother, Catherine does take a job at Dear Green, a care home in Glasgow. She can barely hide her repulsion for the old people but keeps her spirits high with the secret knowledge that, just as soon as she has enough money, she’ll take off to Costa Rica where she’ll be free from all responsibility – free to dance, drink rum, and work on nothing but her tan!

But Rose, who in her lucid moments is still extremely savvy, knows a secret. A terrible secret about what goes on in Room 7 at Dear Green. It’s been easy for the regular staff at the care home to brush Rose’s concerns aside as the ravings of a demented old woman but she sees an opportunity with this new girl. Maybe Catherine can get her message to the outside world. Maybe Catherine can get to the bottom of the whole twisted, depraved mystery… if only Rose could stay in the present long enough to convince Catherine without the trauma of her past rising up and plunging her into the cold river of her past, into the world of a terrified 10-year-old child.

With interesting twists throughout that heighten the importance of making Catherine a ‘believer’, the question is… can Rose convince Catherine that something horrible is happening in Room 7 before it’s too late? And is Catherine ready to shed the pretense of her shallow existence and face both the darkness and the light of the real world?

It’s a novel worth reading to find out. Fitzgerald’s prose is at once straightforward and humorous; insightful and chilling. The Exit, have a read.

 

Review By:
Amy Burns: Managing Editor of Mulberry Fork Review, holds a PhD from the University of Glasgow, and is represented by Lucy Luck at Aitken Alexander.