By Caitlin Wahrer
My rating: 4 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.00 Stars
Genre: Dark Fiction
Format Read: Libby Audiobook
Goodreads summary: When a small-town family is pushed to the brink, how far will they go to protect one of their own? An edgy, propulsive read about what we will do in the name of love and blood
Tony has always looked out for his younger brother, Nick. So when he’s called to a hospital bed where Nick is lying battered and bruised after a violent sexual assault, his protective instincts flare, and a white-hot rage begins to build.
As a small-town New England lawyer, Tony’s wife, Julia, has cases involving kids all the time. When Detective Rice gets assigned to this one, Julia feels they’re in good hands. Especially because she senses that Rice, too, understands how things can quickly get complicated. Very complicated.
After all, one moment Nick was having a drink with a handsome stranger; the next, he was at the center of an investigation threatening to tear not only him, but his entire family, apart. And now his attacker, out on bail, is disputing Nick’s version of what happened.
As Julia tries to help her brother-in-law, she sees Tony’s desire for revenge, to fix things for Nick, getting out of control. Tony is starting to scare her. And before long, she finds herself asking: does she really know what her husband is capable of? Or of what she herself is?
Exploring elements of doubt, tragedy, suspense, and justice, The Damage is an all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.
Content warnings for “The Damage” are below (highlight over to read):
Rape, domestic abuse, alcoholism
There’s no way to describe this book except to say that it was a lot. The entire premise of the book is that Nick, a college student, gets raped by a man he goes home from the bar with. He’s badly beaten, and taken to the hospital instantly, and thus starts the police proceedings. The rest of the book tracks the progress of the case from the perspectives of Nick, Tony (Nick’s brother who basically raised him), Julia (Tony’s wife), and Detective Rice. Our entry point to the story is 3 years later, when Detective Rice is on his deathbed and asks Julia to come talk to him one last time. We occasionally cut to these scenes in the middle of particularly tense moments of the past, and it’s used to build suspense around what really happened.
What makes this book work is that you can relate to every single one of the characters (minus the rapist, there’s definitely no rape apologies) even when they’re having interpersonal conflicts. This is a family who supports each other and wants what’s best for each other, but they’re also a deeply flawed family with various traumatic pasts. All three of our family members were fully fleshed out three dimensional people, and that gave the reader something to focus on rather than just constantly thinking about the actual rape incident itself.
There is constant suspense around what “really happened”. This means at times there are questions as to whether Nick is telling the truth, and the way it’s set up in the beginning makes you believe that horrible things end up happening. I obviously will not spoil it, but I think it’s important to know going in that this is a psychological suspense novel, and so the not believing is part of the plot. That being said, the people closest to Nick always believe him fully.
At its core, this is a book about a family trying to deal with the repercussions of a traumatic incident happening to one of their own. It is also, of course, a novel about a man who was raped and isn’t particularly believed by the general public (although his family and friends support him wholeheartedly). The book will be deeply triggering for some people, and honestly I don’t think I would have read it had I known what it was about, just because it was heavy. That being said, it was well written and so if it’s something you think you can handle, it’s worth it.
I don’t have that much else to say about this book because of how dark it was, but if you’ve read it and enjoyed it, let me know in the comments below!