Lex Gracie is Girl A, the “Girl who escaped.”
Author Abigail Dean lets us know from the first chapter that whatever else you read in the rest of the book, Lex gets out of the “House of Horrors.”
Horrible crimes are punished, children survive, they grow up and live their lives.
It’s that assurance that allows you to fully immerse yourself in the story.
You hold onto it as a charm that whatever evil is coming, it will be temporary.
And there is evil.
A family of children is held captive by their parents as a way to correct them.
A father whose own failings drive him to madness.
A mother who is one only in name.
Or is she? One of the most fascinating things about the book is Dean’s ability to have you question your reactions to certain characters. You don’t necessarily empathize, but you don’t dismiss their circumstances as unimportant either.
As a former lawyer, Dean brings a pragmatism to her writing that really works in this case. Instead of dwelling on the horrors the children lived through, Dean focuses on the aftermath of their life as adults.
She could have easily leaned into their childhood and been really graphic with it all but she doesn’t. You are left with an understanding of what happened, but sometimes only through implied suggestions. Suggestions are bad enough, but I appreciated her refusal to sensationalize the details.
Reading about how the trauma worked on these kids as adults is a fascinating take on this style of story, and one I’ve never seen before. It’s a unique and brilliant debut novel that has me eagerly awaiting what she will write about next.
Want to read Girl A with your book club? Check out these Girl A book club questions to get your conversation flowing.