cover image Survival Instincts

Survival Instincts

Jen Waite. Dutton, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4583-7

Waite follows her memoir A Beautiful, Terrible Thing with an unexceptional thriller on similar themes of men’s betrayal and women’s resilience. While on a weekend bonding expedition in the mountains of New Hampshire, therapist Anne Thompson, her teen daughter Thea, and her cheerful, bakery-owning mom Rose, are marched to an isolated cabin by an unknown gunman, who intended to kidnap Thea but decided to take the others as well. While Thea struggles, Anne and Rose’s mental strategizing leads them each into recalling the history of Anne’s abusive relationship with Thea’s now deceased father, while their attacker thinks about how his tortured youth led him to this point. The backstory lays the ground well for the somewhat implausible final twist, but the interactions in the cabin and the psychology of the kidnapper play so close to stereotype that they become tedious. Anne’s failed marriage and anxious parenting also stay close to a default narrative of domestic abuse, leaving Rose, with a steely practicality hiding behind her sweet exterior, the only character likely to catch reader interest. Waite’s straightforward prose, without the support of a more surprising story line, doesn’t create the tension needed for this style of tight suspense. [em]Agent: Myrsini Stephanides, Carol Mann Agency. (July) [/em]