With her astounding intelligence, fierce independence, and otherworldly lavender eyes, college senior Trace Pennington makes an indelible impression even as questions about her past and her true identity hover over every page. From her earliest years, Trace turned away from her abusive mother toward her loving father. Within the twisty logic of abuse, her desperate love for him took on a romantic cast that persists to this day, though she’s had no contact with her family since she ran away from home years ago. She’s eked out an impoverished but functional existence, living in an abandoned house, putting herself through college—and leading a double life: at school she is Ianthe Covington, a young woman with no past.
Trace’s solitary life is upended when she and her literature professor fall in love. As it becomes apparent that he has his own dark secrets, she’s forced to face herself and her past. After recovering a horrific, long-suppressed memory, Trace finally copes with the fallout from her brutal childhood. This unique portrait of the psychological effects of trauma is tantalizing, shocking, and ultimately hopeful.
Reading Group Guide
Brilliant, unconventional college senior Trace Pennington has eked out an impoverished, solitary, but highly functional existence in the years since she ran away from her abusive home. But when Trace finds love with a much older man, her life is upended and she's forced to face herself and her past. After recovering a horrific, long-suppressed memory, she discovers that much of her present-day life is a carefully constructed delusion. With equal parts genius and psychosis, Trace copes with the fallout from a brutal, bizarre childhood in a heart-stopping story that explores both the terror and wonder of mental illness.
Questions for Discussion
1. The opening line of the first chapter is among the most shocking imaginable: “I never had sex with my father but I would have, if he had agreed.” What was your reaction to this confession? Did you make any assumptions about the narrator or anticipate what might follow?
2. What do you later learn about Trace’s affections for her father? see more