Review: The Visitors – Catherine Burns

2017: 76
5 of 5 stars
Published 2017

This is a creepy, insidious story about a middle aged woman, Marion,  who has been controlled, disrespected, degraded, browbeaten and held down all her life. Her family made her feel like she was worthless, stupid and unimportant. She had no friends and was bullied in school and bullied at home even more by her mother and  older brother John with whom she still lives. John was and is a nasty piece of work who kept his mother and sister in check all their lives with his tantrums, violence, and self serving behaviour. Her father always condoned his son’s behaviour, perhaps sharing some of the same tendencies.

John keeps female “visitors” in the basement but Marion pretty much has herself convinced that either there’s nothing wrong with this or that it doesn’t exist at all. It seems like her brother has been doing this for years, whatever “this” is. She continually looks the other way, unwilling to face the horrors. Marion learned this behaviour from her mother who always and firmly looked the other way when her son or her husband was doing something untoward.  When John has a heart attack later in the book, she finally has to deal with the Visitors herself. We wonder if she’ll find the strength within herself to deal with it all.

Most of the book looks back at Marion’s life and the major dysfunction in that family and how it affected her, at  all the various incidences where you can see why she’s become what she is, why she spends most of her time daydreaming elaborate rose-coloured fantasies about perfect lives with perfect friends,  rather than face the difficult truths of Marion’s reality. We then find out what happens when she has to face those truths and it isn’t pretty.

It’s a rather sad book, really. Marion as a child so disregarded that she cannot stand up for herself in any way as she tries to handle the heavy weight of stress and anxiety and fear. You read, you wait, you think she’s going to snap and all hell is going to break loose. This book isn’t a thriller, or a mystery to be solved other than finding out who is in the cellar (you can guess why). This kind of thing does happen, you see it every now and then on the news and this story tells how this could happen quite well. I think , it’s kind of  a “coming of age” story, Marion finding herself late in life. It didn’t end quite like I expected, in utter disaster, but with an element of hope for Marion’s future despite the past.

I really liked it, it had a very realistic feel in many ways. Enjoyable, with an undertone of the creep factor and a dose of pity for Marion thrown in.  It might not suit everyone but if you like dark,  character based novels, I think you’ll like this one.

This is a Netgalley book for review.

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