I’m entirely unprepared for what’s waiting for me beyond the heavy, wide front door and when I open it the world seems to tilted I have to grip the doorframe to stop myself from falling. Because there she is, standing on my doorstep, staring back at me. There, after all this time, is Heather.
And I have imagined this, dreamed of this, dreaded this, so many hundreds of times for so many years that the reality is both entirely surreal and anticlimactic. I see and hear life continuing on this ordinary London street on this ordinary afternoon – cars and people passing, children playing down the street, a dog barking – as if from far away, and as I stare into her face the sour taste of fear creeps around the back of my tongue. I open my mouth, but no words come and we stand in silence for awhile, two thirty-three-year-old versions of the girls we’d once been.
-Watching Edie by Camilla Way
Watching Edie by Camilla Way
Watching Edie is a psychological thriller about Edie and Heather, two former best friends who reunite more than fifteen years after a tragic event in their teens. Edie gives birth to an unplanned child, and finding herself helpless to postpartum depression, is relieved that Heather is willing to move in to their apartment and care of Edie’s child while Edie retreats to her bedroom, withdrawing from the world around her. However, when Edie’s depression starts to subside, she finds the world around her changed – she is shocked by how much time has passed, how much weight she has lost as she languished in bed, and deeply troubled by Heather’s iron-tight grip on her and her infant daughter, Maya. Her phone has mysteriously gone missing, her only family has been turned away again and again, and Heather appears to have no intention of leaving, now that she has Edie under her control. But Edie cannot banish memories from her mind of the events of their childhood, and she wonders what Heather’s true intentions are.
Undoubtedly the best part of Watching Edie was the character development – the characters start as sketches, but as the present and the past unfold, chapter after chapter, the characters reveal themselves. Though never named as such, Heather appears to be autistic – she has a similar unawareness of pop culture, a focused interest in Edie as almost more-than-human, and when she grows too emotional she either loses her self-control or disconnects, both common behaviors for autistic children and adults. Heather is a deeply sympathetic character, but still highly problematic, as her affection for Edie turns obsessive. Edie’s blatant fear in the face of Heather’s obsession is also sympathetic, but Edie still is realistic in her imperfections – Edie of the present is suspicious and quick to make assumptions, while Edie of the past is self-centered and obnoxiously desperate for approval among her peers.
The narrative of Watching Edie is spread between the past when Edie and Heather are teens, and the present when they are in their early thirties, and the chapter alternates between present and past to tell both stories while maintaining suspense. I have seen this done poorly in other novels, but in Watching Edie the structure was spot-on. I was always invested in both plot lines, never struggled to follow them, and while I had a few guesses about the big reveal of Edie and Heather’s past, I was never quite sure. Even then, I was horrified by the details, and satisfied with the resolution of the novel.
In all, I’ll give Watching Edie a 9 out of 10. The well-built suspense is balanced out with some great character development. Fans of thrillers will find little to complain about, and readers who are new to the genre would likely enjoy this as well.