Averil Dean’s debut, Alice Close Your Eyes, left me wide-eyed and open mouthed. It had this car wreck quality to it; I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t. Not until I read the last word. Her follow-up, The Undoing, has the same pull, but that’s where the similarities end.
The world of The Undoing is one that revolves around Celia. She, along with her boyfriend Eric and her stepbrother Rory, buy the derelict Blackbird Inn because it’s Celia’s dream to restore it. Julian, a former ski champion who befriends Eric, can’t stop thinking about her. Rory’s mother blames her for her father’s disappearing act. People are pulled into her orbit, and it’s frustrating, because she’s this passive, faded slip of a woman whose sole ambition is to remain in the town of Jawbone Ridge and run the inn that’s fascinated her since childhood.
But she’s a selfish creature, too. Her dream is incomplete without both Eric and Rory in the picture. She will not choose one over the other and refuses to entertain the notion that someday, that choice may be forced on her. The knot tying the three of them together is twisted and complex and not easily undone. But it starts to unravel slowly, with sly whispers and half-hearted mentions. Dean moves the reader backward rather than forward, making pit stops along the way at key points in the story. Here is Julian poking holes in Eric’s certainty about his relationship with both Celia and Rory. Here are the rumors that Kate, a childhood friend, casually mentioned to Celia and eventually push Celia out of school.
Here’s the movie theater where everything began.
The more you uncover, the more you understand why their story ends the way it does. Their happiness is a bubble growing thinner with each passing year and pops when the pressure becomes too much. I spent most of the book trying to figure out who the villain was. Is it Celia? Is it Julian? Or is it some combination I just can’t see until the very end?
Copy of The Undoing provided by the publisher.