Rating – 4 stars.
Imagine a scenario, nothing grand at all really – just an ordinary day. Lets say its an boring Tuesday night. You are exhausted and the weekend feels like a million years away to you already, you are pissed off as it is. And then you think about your empty stomach growling .You are fed up with the steady stream of take-outs. You plan to whip up something quick and open your fridge and to your dismay realize you are pathetically low on supplies.
You decide a quick trip to restock your fridge is the need of the hour too, so despite the frustration and a slight bout of anger you make the trip to the nearest supermarket. To your relief, it’s not too crowded but still there are people around. Browsing through the aisles you are quick enough to throw things in your trolley and just then you drop something, anything. It’s an ordinary moment, and before you know it a friendly co-shopper or the helpful employee working there, picks up the item and hands it over to you. You smile at the person politely, thank them, finish your shopping and move on. Before you reach home, the friendly stranger is already long forgotten by you.
Only this stranger cannot dismiss you that easily.
You don’t even realize this but you are about to have one of the most frightful experiences possible – you are about to be stalked.
Frightened yet? No. Well then, imagine you are a single parent too then. And not only does this stranger obsess over you but your child as well. Is the answer yes yet?
Has to be.
Linda Huber’ The Paradise Trees explores this very fearsome scenario. Alicia Bryson, a single mother is the protagonist of Huber’ tale. Alicia has her plate full the summer she has to return to her childhood home, a small village in Yorkshire. She has to make sure her eight year old daughter Jenny enjoys her little trip, make the call about her dad, whose health is deteriorating by the day all the while as she tries to overcome the trauma of growing up in the very place with the father who was horrible to her, so horrible in fact that the moment she turned 16 she chose to get away from her home and her father.
What Alicia doesn’t realize is amidst all of this, she has someone, a stranger who bumps into her once, keeping a watchful eye over her every move.
Alicia has Margaret, her aunt for help and company to take care of her father as she moves into her old home. A nurse herself, Alicia is beyond disgusted at having to have touch her father even remotely owing to his treatment of her in her childhood & teen years. A horrible, horrible man, her father is a religious fanatic, who took things too far to punish the acts of his daughter, he considered inappropriate, even when none of it was her fault. However 5 strokes have rendered him mostly incapable of taking care of himself. And while his older sister Margaret, has stood through everything with him, she finally has to resort to calling Alicia when he suffers a fifth attack.
As Alicia continues to try to persuade her aunt to let her have her father moved to a care home, she continues to battle the memories of the moments when she suffered at the hands of her father, all the while as her mother stood a silent witness to her suffering. Whether her mother agreed with her father’ methods of discipline or was she so terrified of her father that she dare not go against him, will continue to stay a mystery to her. Alicia can only believe her mother went to her grave with the regret of not having been the mother she oughta have been.
In midst of all these troubles, Alicia finds some happiness in the form of old friends and new along with her daughter, who is having a whale of a time especially because of her new pets.
As Alicia finds herself finally happy with the prospect of a possible romance, her world is shaken when her daughter is abducted, which is a parent’ worst nightmare come true.
Told from the point of view of Alicia and the ‘Stranger’ following her in alternate chapters, Linda Huber’ debut offering is a thrilling read. The chapters told from the Stranger’ POV are especially well written and are definitely goosebumps inflicting.
The only grievance I had with the prose was the repeated use of the expression ‘sigh’. Now I know it’s not a crime to use a word, a phrase or expression more than once but really the number of times I read – Alicia sighed, she sighed, let out a sigh of relief got on my nerves. The expression occurred at least once per chapter I think. Otherwise I quite enjoyed myself completely.
I was provided an advance readers copy for reviewing courtesy of Legend Press and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review of the book. This review is in no way influenced and is solely based on my opinion.