Book Club Review: Behind Closed Doors, May 2018

May 2018 – Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

blog by Cindy Bushey

It is always interesting to read a debut novel.  The novice author is waiting with bated breath to read reviews and see if the story, style and substance, resonated with readers.  Zion’s Book Club can report that author B. A. Paris has definitely found a home in the psychological thriller genre.  In Behind Closed Doors, she carefully constructs a very disturbing story of Grace, a young woman shouldering responsibility for her younger sister, Millie, born with Down’s syndrome.  The girls’ parents are two-dimensional, cold and unfeeling, easily leaving their daughters to move half way around the world.  Grace has found Jack, a lawyer representing battered women who is happy to assume guardianship of Millie when he weds Grace.  It will be a perfect marriage and a perfect life.  Grace should have paid attention to that old saw about things that appear too good to be true.

Jack is a master manipulator, liar, and abuser.  Physical violence was not a part of his abuse – yet, but mind games, food deprivation, and using threats to Millie to control Grace raised the suspense.  Ms. Paris excelled at Jack’s character development.  He might be one of the most evil persons ever found between the pages of a book.  In fact, at least one of our readers found it difficult to read the novel due to the evil that oozed from this character.  Others were engaged with the story from the first page to the last and found it a fast, easy read.  The rest of our group felt the repeated episodes of Grace’s ineffective rebellions became redundant.  They wanted to shake the woman and tell her to leave already.  Annoying and stupid were adjectives they applied to Grace.  Millie’s intelligence, on the other hand, was on display.  She recognized the peril Jack represented and had a clear view of what needed to be done.

Unfortunately, some of our readers felt many of the situations portrayed in the book seemed contrived.  We wanted to know how many people would marry without meeting their future spouse’s family and friends.  It seemed like Grace was missing a lot of clues that something was definitely wrong.  We also could not figure out how Jack ever got any work done when he was constantly on site with Grace keeping her confined and controlled.  The author’s mastery of details just was not there, although her mastery of eerie suspense was never in question.  The resolution of the plot happened; however, it was an abrupt ending leaving our readers wanting more.  Yet, enough readers across the country were able to overlook the weaknesses in the plot to make this book a best seller.  Indeed, a movie is in the works and is already being compared to Gone Girl.

While our readers are split in their opinions of this book, it did spark a discussion about how many people we might know who are in controlling relationships.  Surprisingly, there were quite a few.  While we did not feel there was abuse present, we recognized controlling personalities and spouses who put up with the behavior.  When speculating as to why, we realized it might be an ingrained response.  As one of our readers said about an acquaintance, she was raised in the “he says, she does” tradition where it’s easier to go along than make waves and try to change someone.  We did agree that, after reading this book, we would look at our family and friends with more skeptical eyes.    Some of us will also read the author’s new novel; it supposedly is in the same dark thriller vein.   Our readers rated Behind Closed Doors in this way:  Three gave it two thumbs up, four gave it 1 thumb up, four were neutral, and one gave it one thumb down.  Zion’s readers will meet in June for our final meeting of the year with discussion of The Woman In The Window.

It is always interesting to read a debut novel.  The novice author is waiting with bated breath to read reviews and see if the story, style and substance, resonated with readers.  Zion’s Book Club can report that author B. A. Paris has definitely found a home in the psychological thriller genre.  In Behind Closed Doors, she carefully constructs a very disturbing story of Grace, a young woman shouldering responsibility for her younger sister, Millie, born with Down’s syndrome.  The girls’ parents are two-dimensional, cold and unfeeling, easily leaving their daughters to move half way around the world.  Grace has found Jack, a lawyer representing battered women who is happy to assume guardianship of Millie when he weds Grace.  It will be a perfect marriage and a perfect life.  Grace should have paid attention to that old saw about things that appear too good to be true.

Jack is a master manipulator, liar, and abuser.  Physical violence was not a part of his abuse – yet, but mind games, food deprivation, and using threats to Millie to control Grace raised the suspense.  Ms. Paris excelled at Jack’s character development.  He might be one of the most evil persons ever found between the pages of a book.  In fact, at least one of our readers found it difficult to read the novel due to the evil that oozed from this character.  Others were engaged with the story from the first page to the last and found it a fast, easy read.  The rest of our group felt the repeated episodes of Grace’s ineffective rebellions became redundant.  They wanted to shake the woman and tell her to leave already.  Annoying and stupid were adjectives they applied to Grace.  Millie’s intelligence, on the other hand, was on display.  She recognized the peril Jack represented and had a clear view of what needed to be done.

Unfortunately, some of our readers felt many of the situations portrayed in the book seemed contrived.  We wanted to know how many people would marry without meeting their future spouse’s family and friends.  It seemed like Grace was missing a lot of clues that something was definitely wrong.  We also could not figure out how Jack ever got any work done when he was constantly on site with Grace keeping her confined and controlled.  The author’s mastery of details just was not there, although her mastery of eerie suspense was never in question.  The resolution of the plot happened; however, it was an abrupt ending leaving our readers wanting more.  Yet, enough readers across the country were able to overlook the weaknesses in the plot to make this book a best seller.  Indeed, a movie is in the works and is already being compared to Gone Girl.

While our readers are split in their opinions of this book, it did spark a discussion about how many people we might know who are in controlling relationships.  Surprisingly, there were quite a few.  While we did not feel there was abuse present, we recognized controlling personalities and spouses who put up with the behavior.  When speculating as to why, we realized it might be an ingrained response.  As one of our readers said about an acquaintance, she was raised in the “he says, she does” tradition where it’s easier to go along than make waves and try to change someone.  We did agree that, after reading this book, we would look at our family and friends with more skeptical eyes.    Some of us will also read the author’s new novel; it supposedly is in the same dark thriller vein.   Our readers rated Behind Closed Doors in this way:  Three gave it two thumbs up, four gave it 1 thumb up, four were neutral, and one gave it one thumb down.  Zion’s readers will meet in June for our final meeting of the year with discussion of The Woman In The Window.