After five days of hideous abuse the girls, violated, their spirits almost broken, manage to escape. A good samaritan helps them flee to Vancouver, but it’s clear that the sisters will be affected forever. As they try to adjust to life in the city and struggle to overcome the trauma that haunts them they discover that Jess is pregnant. After deciding to put the child up for adoption she changes her mind at the last minute, and the girls become a foursome as Jess gives birth to a daughter.
The story continues eighteen years later, as the sister, under new names, are carving out lives in Vancouver. Dani and Jess are doing all right, although they work non-stop just to get by, but Courtney, who faced the worst of the abuse, parties incessantly, goes from job to job and disappears for weeks at a time. Her life affects both sisters, but has a profound impact on Jess’s daughter, Starling, who knows next to nothing about the sisters past. Crystal disappears once more, and the story plunges back into the harrowing finale.
If I were to judge this book only as a thriller I would give it high marks; it is unbearably tense, and as blood-curdling as a horror novel. The sisters are all solid characters, and the prose is spot-on. What elevates this book for me is that it makes a vitally important statement about the effects abuse has upon girls without sacrificing any of the qualities that makes it a good novel. I can see that the girls have almost no hope from the beginning. The abuse they suffer at the hands of their father will mark them for life. The poverty, the isolation, and the lack of opportunities almost guarantees that their lives will be hard; and they are. All of the girls struggle with money, with relationships, and they work unbelievably hard. Still, somehow, they have hope. They persevere, by supporting each other, and if they don’t exactly triumph, they survive, with grace and dignity. That’s a lot for a thriller.