Tuesday 9 January 2018

THE GIVEN by Fiona Dodwell

Madison Walter thought she had everything.  A good job. A perfect husband. A baby on the way. 

 When a terrible tragedy turns her life upside down, Madison knows things will never be the same again. 

 Intent on saving her marriage, she joins her husband on a luxury trip abroad. However, a week in the sun turns into an abyss of despair and horror. 

 Can Madison save her life, her sanity and her family before it's too late?

I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of this great book. I was really looking forward to checking it out, and ended up reading the novella in a few sittings.

Madison and Damon Walter used to have a happy marriage, but after they suffer one of the worst things that can happen to new parents, their life spins out of control. Maddy spirals into a deep well of depression, while Damon throws himself into his work.

So when Damon suggests they go abroad to a luxury resort, so they can take a breath and leave behind the house that reminds them so much of their loss, Maddy agrees. It doesn't matter that it's costing them a fortune, or that a change of scenery won't magically make her forget what she lost, but she's willing to try to reconnect with her husband.

The resort is a strange place. There might be good food, plenty of sun, and even a friendly couple they manage to befriend, but something dark is going on beneath all the brightness. Something that doesn't feel right.

And it looks like everything might lead back to Maddy...

Wow. Okay.

I need a moment.

After I finished this novella, that's exactly how I felt. As soon as I started reading this story, I was caught in its mysterious web. I couldn't put it down.

The best thing about this novella is the quiet genius that sweeps the reader away. How caught up I got in what starts as a troubled marriage in desperate need of healing, and quickly evolves into a roller-coaster ride into the darkness of grief.

Maddy and Damon find themselves continually circling back to the same argument. Things between them get so bad she starts to push him away, begins to see things no one else seem to notice. A nightmarish situation ending in a horrifying, yet promising decision. A double-edged sword loaded into an  unfathomable choice she knows she has to make.

The Given is an excellent, often nightmarish suspense novella. The atmosphere is vivid and even sickly. The story is so well written that even though the luxury of the resort shines through, there's no denying the rotten core. And when you reach the ending. Wow. I did NOT see THAT coming. Yet as soon as I read it and retraced the story, it made total sense.

Loved this story!

Oh, and there are also two bonus short stories:

Red Rain was a very dark story about two sisters who are forced to stay indoors as smelly, lethal torrents of fleshy rain fall from the sky and never seem to end.

It's very post-apocalyptic, and although it hooks you in and I enjoyed it, don't expect much hope from this one.

The Uninvited is another dark story. This time about a waitress who works her butt off every single day to support herself and her lazy boyfriend. The only light of her day is a stray dog that eventually ends up meaning more to her than anyone else in the world.

It's another great read, especially if you're an animal lover who can't stand cruelty against them.

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