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Watching Edie


Watching Edie

A friend of mine likes two kinds of books best of all: stories that focus on women and girls’ friendships, and narratives that offer psychological suspense and complex, even unreliable, narrators. As soon as I finished Camilla Way’s WATCHING EDIE, I told this friend that I had found her the perfect book.

Back in high school, Edie was the beautiful girl, the one everyone wanted to be with, or simply to be. Now, however, Edie’s life is a far cry from the charmed existence she had once imagined for herself, filled with art school, romance, parties and creative friends. Instead, Edie, now in her mid-30s, is scraping by in a working-class neighborhood in London, working as a waitress while saving up for her unborn baby, the result of a fling with a former co-worker who doesn’t even know he’s about to be a father. This isn’t the kind of future Edie would ever have desired, but at least she’s far away from the past that consistently haunts her.

"WATCHING EDIE is an intense work of psychological suspense, the kind of book that will keep readers up late reading just one more chapter."

That is, until the past shows up on her doorstep, in the form of Heather, the chubby, awkward, sometimes clingy friend whom Edie alternately pitied and tolerated during their one year together in secondary school. Back then, something happened that caused Edie to flee in horror from their small town, creating a permanent rift between Edie and her mother, and dramatically ending her friendship with Heather once and for all.

It seems that Heather, whose parents put all their ambitions on Heather after the death of her beloved younger sister, hasn’t quite lived up to her own childhood dreams of becoming a doctor, either. She’s as intense, awkward and chubby as ever, and she has the appearance of being someone who’s seriously down on her luck. Edie, shaken by this face from a past she’s wanted desperately to forget, tries to turn Heather away. But when she’s felled by postpartum depression after her daughter’s birth, Edie finds Heather back in her life, potentially threatening her small family.

The book is cleverly structured as a series of chapters labeled “After” (present day) and “Before” (during high school). The “After” sections are narrated by Edie, the “Before” sections by Heather, and gradually the two narratives converge, as readers must constantly ask themselves which of the two narrative voices --- if either --- they can come to trust.

WATCHING EDIE is an intense work of psychological suspense, the kind of book that will keep readers up late reading just one more chapter. But it also addresses some serious social concerns, including depression, family dynamics, and emotional and physical abuse. In the end, the violent act that separates “before” from “after,” while truly horrifying, may not be as shocking as readers may have built up in their own imaginations. But they will nonetheless come away from the novel both surprised and contemplative.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on August 12, 2016

Watching Edie
by Camilla Way