As she comes to, she can’t figure out how she got here or why she’s here, but she remembers distinctly seeing this man in the Bangkok airport. She was with her family, heading on vacation. She remembers this guy being strange, watching her, talking with her about coming to Australia and America and all the places in the world she’d like to see.
He drugged her drink and took her. She needs to escape, but there is no where to go. She’s fenced into this place with this man who greets her by telling her he hasn’t raped her. Will she got out, find somewhere in this foreign country that will guide her back to her parents or will she become so broken down and desperate to begin understanding and sympathizing with her captor?
Christopher’s debut novel Stolen is a powerhouse. The book is told through a long letter from Gemma to her captor Ty, detailing her side of the story and why she does the thing she does while living with him. Although I’ve read many reviews suggesting this book is told in the second person, it’s not. It’s told through first person but addresses the captor by the word “you” because of the letter format (see Charles Benoit’s You for a true flavor of second person narration).
We don’t get to hear Ty’s voice in this story, and we don’t need to or want to hear it. Put simply, this book is an exploration of Stockholm Syndrome, or the psychological phenomenon within victims to take sympathy with their criminal. It stems from desperation and from isolation, both of which Gemma feels here. It’s not a simple book to read nor understand.
Gemma’s captor tells her he loves her, and he took her away because of the passion he had to protect her and cherish her. He tells her he’s known her for a long time and has always wanted to take her someplace safe where he can love her in the way no one else could or would.
But she’s a flower under glass.
As she hears more from him, whether they’re truths or elaborate lies, she begins to develop a love for him and a belief that he needed to do what he did in order to become a better, stronger person. His life as a child was rough, and this is his opportunity to start over. Not only can he start over, but he can give his dream life to someone else who he can nurture. He’s created a utopia, for just the two of them.
Stolen is both fast and slow paced. The writing is smooth and vivid, the landscape and surroundings easily imaginable and believable. But the story itself is slow, and it needs to be. This is intentional to get to the bone of what’s going on in Gemma and Ty’s minds and why either ultimately make some of the decisions they do regarding one another’s futures. Christopher’s style makes reading this almost too easy and begged me to return to pages already read and reread for better understanding. Her careful lacing of symbols — the camel, the snake pit — add layers to what seems simple.
While reading this book, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girl but be warned: Stolen won’t have the wide appeal that Scott’s title has. It’s a much more mature book in what it is doing internally for the characters and for the reader. They both are well written and powerful but with differing goals.
This is the kind of book I wait for because it begs to be book talked. The unassuming cover and the foreign setting may make it an easy one to overlook on the shelf, but once you get to the meat of it, it’s one not easily forgotten. Pass it off to your fans of psychologically-driven titles, the ones that bore into the psyche of character. The potential for discussion here is rich.