“Joanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly.
But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home. Is she being followed? She is sure it’s him; the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave her alone. Hearing the steps speed up Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps and lying motionless on the floor.
Now Joanna has to do the thing she hates most – make a decision. Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong?”
Joanna has spent most of her life avoiding things she doesn’t want to deal with. Bank statements pile up, calls go unanswered, and even her career choice – or lack of it – goes unchallenged. Essentially, she’s a settler, and never questions anything that she can leave well alone.
The story starts when Joanna and her friend Laura are on a very rare night out, and a pushy bloke is all over them, insisting on posing with them for selfies, and then getting nasty when they insist that they don’t want him around. A bit spooked, the girls decide to call it a night and leave the bar, walking together a while then separating to continue on to their respective homes. A few minutes into her solitary walk, Joanna hears footsteps behind her and as he gets closer and closer to her, she panics. As she reaches the top of a set of steps, she pushes her pursuer and he falls down to the bottom where he lies unresponsive. It’s the choice that she makes at this moment of truth that defines the path that Joanna’s life will take – does she call an ambulance, or walk away and leave him there?
From this point on, there are two alternating chapter threads – Reveal and Conceal. Each refers to a choice that Joanna could have made at the bottom of the steps – and takes us further along that particular path, showing the consequences of each.
I found Joanna quite a difficult character to connect to – as mentioned early on, she is an avoider and lets events carry her along rather than be proactive about anything. I also felt that there were situations within each of the narratives where the characters behaved differently so as to help that particular angle along.
Even so, this is a very interesting and original book – you’ll see a lot of reference to the movie ‘Sliding Doors’ in various reviews, but the only similarity to that is the parallel timeframes – used to great advantage in this novel. I wasn’t too taken with the ending – felt a little ‘convenient’ and romanticised for me in comparison to the rest of the book and the subject matter, but to be fair, it is clever.