Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In His Sights by Kate Brennan

One time, while I was in college, I was riding around in my pickup truck (his name was Truck) with a friend and that annoying Police song Every Breath You Take came on. It was a nice spring day and so we, naturally, had the windows of Truck rolled down. At a red light, I began rambling, somewhat incoherently, about how the song has always creeped me out because, essentially, it is the story of a stalker. I guess people can think it's romantic, but it's really not. The girl dumped you. Move the fuck on. The guy in a car next to Truck was laughing at us. I guess he'd heard the entire conversation.

So I knew that I was going to read this book when I read the epigraph of the book and it read: I'LL BE WATCHING YOU. - The Police

This is a supposedly true story of a woman, clearly from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, who was stalked by a wealthy ex-boyfriend for years. It's written under a pseudonym because her stalker is still alive and she feels she is still in danger.

It's haunting, it's scary, and I was emotionally ripped about by page 200. I couldn't stop turning the pages, even though I knew that I would never, could never, be satisfied with any ending.

However, there are several puzzling elements to the book. Why the pseudonym? Her stalker clearly knows her name. He knows where she lives. I'm sympathetic to the narrator, but I just don't see what the need is for all the secrecy. Give the stalker a pseudonym if that helps for legal reasons, but what's the point of your own pseudonym? I'm also a bit puzzled at why the author didn't invest in a good surveillance system for at least one of the many homes she lived in to at least attempt documentation of someone breaking in to her home.

Stalking is an awful, scary crime. I have my own stories about stalkers as a result of my years in the domestic violence shelter business and whenever I think about some of the cases, I have to sit down and decompress*. This book does an excellent job of recreating the stress, the fear, and the fear of insanity that comes along with being a victim of a stalker.

In the end, I guess I don't much care how much of the story is accurate, true, or embellished. I only care that if someone who is being stalked or someone who is involved in a dangerous relationship reads this book and it offers them some comfort or help, then book is an okay book in my mind.

Kate Brennan is a tad unlikeable, actually. She's a narcissistic academic and while I can relate to that, it is difficult to feel sympathy for her until pretty late in the game. Oh, your life of research in pretty libraries in Europe is so difficult. You poor thing. Oh, your paper was pretty much loved and adored at your conference? Your life is very difficult. Your childhood was tough? Oh, well, guess what? Life's not a bed of roses for everyone. By refusing to seek help, Brennan made the situation more unbearable than it had to be.

But. And this is a bit but. I get it. I get her. I see wanting to remain independent, being ashamed that you had been incredibly wrong in judging someone's character. I understand the decisions she's made and I think she writes a powerful tale. A tentative four out of five stars.

*One case in particular haunts me. I had a woman on my caseload who was being stalked by an abusive ex-boyfriend. There was tons of documentation by her family, her employer, and the local police, including two incidents during which the stalker ran my client off the road. She received a personal protection order and the incidents of contact escalated.

Eventually I moved on to grad school. I set this client's file in front of my replacement and told this incompetent woman who was to replace me that this was her number one priority.

A year later, a friend sent me an email link for a newspaper story covering a local man who killed his ex-wife and her mother. That man? Was my client's stalker. That client? Had apparently left the country to avoid having to deal with him.

1 comment:

  1. I feel disturbed that my first reaction was, 'oh good, he didn't kill your client'. You must have so many of those stories. Thank you for what you've done to help.

    I'm not sure I could handle that book, but it does sound interesting!


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