Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads:
her late teens, Meredith Berg-Olsen had had all the makings of a runway model.
Now in her late forties, after everything she had been through – including
horrors that John could only guess at – she looked bloodless instead of pale,
skeletal instead of slender, more dead than alive.
John Penrose has two secrets. One is the flatmate he keeps hidden from the world: his high-school sweetheart, Meredith. His other secret is the reason he feels compelled to look after her.
Contrition is a horror story with noir undertones and an atmosphere of mounting dread.”
‘Contrition’, by Deborah Sheldon, is one of those books that once started on, you just cannot put down.
I found it intriguing from the beginning; I was desperate to know what the secrets were. Just what was Meredith? What had John done? The author does a fantastic job of keeping the reader guessing, and withholding just enough to keep us turning those pages, without us losing interest or faith in the book. The pace is very fast, there is always something happening or about to happen and we are never quite sure what. I knew the payoff would be worth it, and quite frankly, the ending is brilliant.
The back-story, the history of John and Meredith, goes from normal to ‘what in the hell’ at great intervals. We get tossed just the right amount of detail and the right times.
I secondary story of John dealing with alcoholism was treated with dignity and respect. I feel that the author has either had personal dealings with the disease or she had really done her research. Coming from a family with alcohol problems past and current, I felt a kinship to John; I was really rooting for him throughout. He had a lot to deal with, past and present. The toll that Meredith was taking on him, his day to day life, and his mental well-being; he truly is a strong character. This is something that really came across well in the narrative.
I am annoyed at myself for taking so long to read ‘Contrition’. It has been a long standing title in my to-read list, and for the impact it had on me, I really wish I had gotten to it sooner. It is one of those books that will stick with you for a long time afterwards.
I cannot recommend this enough, Deborah Sheldon is a great author, and she knows how to write deep and real characters. She can tell a tale and she can scare the crap out of you. This is a terrifying story of the human condition.