“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” – Joseph Heller
There is a fine line between paranoia and fear. Does fear breed paranoia? Or, does paranoia breed fear?
Jenna McCauley is a thirty year old woman who has recently had a heart transplant. A victim of viral myocarditis, she was advised that a transplant was her only option. She is heavily medicated with anti-rejection drugs and is emotionally fragile. Jenna broke up with her fiance Sam telling him she doesn’t love him anymore – while really initiating the break up so that Sam will be free of her, thus ensuring that he will find someone without all the baggage that now accompanies her.
Jenna’s world has shrunken. Since the transplant she rarely leaves her apartment. She laments her breakup with Sam and the breakup of her parents who separated shortly after her illness. Now, six months have passed and it is time to return to her work as a veterinary nurse. To celebrate her return to work, her mother treats her to a new hairstyle. She chooses a much shorter pixie cut and dyes her hair red.
Against the wishes of her parents, friends, and psychiatrist, Jenna wants to make contact with the family of the donor, whose heart now beats in her chest. They warn that such contact will be not only unethical, but it could impede her own recovery as well. Ignoring their warnings, Jenna feels an intense need to know more about her donor, Callie.
She experiences survivor’s guilt and wonders why she lived and Callie died.
Jenna begins to have dreams and memories that can only belong to Callie. She dreams of two little girls on a beach playing with a pink bucket and spade… She does some research online and she learns that “Cellular memory” is a ‘thing’. A scientific theory that memories and preferences can be stored in cells of the organs as well as the brain. Her doctors dismiss this theory and tell her it is just the prednisone medication she is on – coupled with the stress and trauma of the transplant that is causing her paranoia and dreams.
“The heart remembers”
These dreams and memories become more and more disturbing until she questions that Callie’s death was not just a car accident, but something much, much, more… She befriends Callie’s boyfriend and parents who remark on her similar hairstyle and colour to Callie’s. She becomes obsessed with the girl who gave her life. She visits where she worked, and talks to Callie’s co-workers.
She begins to question herself and wonders if she is losing her mind. Her paranoia colours her days. She fears that someone is watching her, following her. When someone breaks in to her apartment and rearranges the magnetic letters on her fridge to read “Stop Digging”, she realizes that the threat is not just in her head.
With plot twists and breath-taking suspense, the story moves quickly to a pivotal scene…
An epic plot climax in an abandoned fairground, causes the suspense to heighten even more and make the reader question who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. “The Gift” is a fast-paced novel that will be appreciated by all who love suspense-packed psychological thrillers.
I received a digital copy of this novel from Bookouture via NetGalley.
Last year I read Louise Jensen’s debut novel “The sister” (which I liked even more than “The Gift”.) You can read my review of “The sister” HERE.
Several years ago an accident left Louise with a disability and she began writing once again, to distract her from her pain and compromised mobility. But writing turned out to be more than just a good distraction. Louise loves creating exciting worlds, dark characters, and twisted plots.
Louise lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, sons, a madcap spaniel and a rather naughty cat, and also teaches mindfulness.