Katie is trapped in an abusive relationship with Daryl. She has no confidence, feels as though she doesn’t deserve love, and thinks she deserves the punishment Daryl metes out. It is not until he almost kills her that Katie finds the courage to leave. Having escaped, Katie must begin to rebuild her life with the help of her friend Jeannie and her new acquaintance, Dan.
Theme of the Book
She’s Not Gone, is a story of courage in the face of debilitating abuse. Katie personifies the abused partner who finally finds the courage to begin to have control over her own life.
What I Liked About the Story
She’s Not Gone is divided into two parts. Part 1 is the harrowing story of Katie’s life with her partner Daryl. Ms. Northwood’s command of the emotional tension involved is outstanding. She has painted a portrait of a woman who believes she deserves an abusive relationship. Katie sees herself as unlovable, as clumsy and deserving of being controlled. She is able to excuse Daryl’s behavior by citing her own deficiencies and Daryl’s previous unhappy experiences. The author’s ability to describe Katie’s emotions, her fear and her desire to please, is frighteningly fluent. The reader will be uncomfortable – but that is the whole point.
Katie suffers both psychological and physical abuse. This is a difficult topic for readers that Ms. Northwood handles with sensitivity. While I was not comfortable reading about Katie’s life, I was convinced.
Part 2 of She’s Not Gone follows Katie’s attempt to live an independent life away from her abuser. Here again, Ms. Northwood is able to develop a character that is believable, honest, and deserving of sympathy. The reader sees Katie waver and sometimes think that she might be able to salvage her relationship with Daryl. This is not an unusual reaction from someone escaping an abusive relationship. Here the reader cheers Katie on, hoping that she will grow into the independent, valuable person she can be.
It is toward the end of Part 2, when Katie is finally in possession of her own car, that the title of the story comes into play. The car gives Katie a way to escape and a way to get caught again. Without giving too much away, I can say that the car plays a major role in the story, though not a role that is credible.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
Part 1 and the first four chapters of Part 2 are well done. These chapters are full of tension, of emotion, of conflict and of redemption. Unfortunately, beginning in Chapter 5 of Part 2, the reader seems to have entered a completely different book. Why the author thought it was important to have a sentient car as a plot device is beyond me. Up until that point, the book is full of emotional truth, harrowing though it may be. Once the car becomes a plot device, I personally lost interest. Had the author kept to the story of Katie’s personal growth and renewal, She’s Not Gone would have been a great book.
She’s Not Gone started out as a well-written, if disturbing, novel. The portrait of a partner in an abusive situation was accurate, sad, and frightening. I wish the author had kept to this theme and had not branched out into Stephen King territory.