Monday, April 10, 2017
The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day: Reading Room Review
Reading Room Review:
The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
How to start the review of a book that is so special you held it to your bosom after finishing it. Well, luckily the brilliant author, unbeknownst to her, provided me with the perfect opening. Lori Rader-Day recently posted a previous piece she had written about repeatedly watching a Prince guitar performance and why she kept watching it. She stated,
“Mastery shows. Mastery is worth the effort. When an artist is in command of his or her form, you want to be a part of it.”
Yes, mastery does show, and The Day I Died shines with it from start to finish.
Anna Winger is a single mother of a teenage boy living in a small Indiana town. Sounds rather ordinary. Oh, but Anna is anything but ordinary, and her life with her son has been one on the run, from town to town, hiding in amongst the ordinary. Anna’s job is highly unusual, as she is a handwriting analyst. Not a parlor trick or a festival fundraiser, Anna is a skilled handwriting analyst hired by companies wanting to screen prospective employees and sometimes by people wanting to screen their love life partners. It’s a job that she can do from anywhere, so moving around hasn’t impaired her ability to make a living. However, it has impaired her ability to make meaningful connections with people other than her son, thirteen-year-old Joshua. But, Joshua is beginning to need more than a life of uncertain connections and unanswered questions.
Anna is struggling to keep her world contained in its no frills, minimum contact style when she is asked to examine a ransom note in a local missing child case. Arriving at the sheriff’s office to analyze the handwriting on the note, she first meets Sherry, the receptionist, and then Sheriff Russ Keller. She learns some about the missing boy and his family, and she is already more involved in a community’s problem than she ever intended. What started as a favor to her mentor/boss, who makes sure work comes her way, quickly becomes a slippery slope into emotions previously held in check and participation in a community where she had hoped to remain aloof. The missing toddler and his also missing mother triggers a protective response from Anna in what could easily be a dangerous family dynamic. The discovery of the child’s nanny dead and obviously murdered raises the stakes of the investigation, and Sheriff Keller, who had been dismissive of Anna’s skills, now turns to her as a resource.
As the usually reticent Anna becomes more immersed in the missing child case, her own secrets are getting harder to keep, especially from her son. Being on the run for thirteen years has taken its toll on both. Then, Joshua goes missing. Anna knows her attempts at a sequestered existence have fallen apart. Her search for her son will reveal Anna’s backstory of why she has spent her life running and afraid, and lives will be changed.
It’s too simplistic to say that Rader-Day’s novels are character driven, although the main character is undeniably expertly crafted. The ordinariness of the character reveals an extraordinary story, a life fought for and paid for with a high emotional price. Anna Winger is an extraordinary survivor disguised in an ordinary life. The job she works as a handwriting analyst is symbolic of her uncommon self. The author surrounds Anna with a cast of characters who are also called on to rise to the telling of the story and be more than they look on the surface. The characters are given great advantage to accomplish their work with a plot, pacing, and dialogue that are remarkable.
Lori Rader-Day has written a book that requires a warning label. “Do not read until you have a clear schedule.” I luckily could devote a day on my Hawaiian vacation, as well as a night, to reading The Day I Died. You will not want to leave it, so plan accordingly. From the enticing prologue, “On the day I died, I took the new oars down to the lake,” to the twist of an ending, Lori Rader-Day spins a tale whose mastery will make you want to read it again and again.
I received a copy from the author for review purposes.