On 15 June 1994, Travis Green shot and killed eleven people, including himself. This shocking event makes the small town of Hartshead instantly and lastingly infamous. Twenty-five years later, the daughter of Travis Green’s last victim — Tragic Cassie Colman (only four years old at the time of the shooting) — returns to Hartshead to care for her mom, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s. Cassie is a recent mom herself and thoroughly overwhelmed by motherhood and the absence of a helping hand, i.e., her own mom (whose mind is rapidly deteriorating) and baby daughter Amy’s dad who lives married with a kid in London (nice guy *sarcasm* also his name happens to be Guy). It doesn’t help that Amy is not the calm and snoozy kind of kid. When a local journalist (who’s writing a human interest piece to mark the anniversary of the shooting) offers friendship, Cassie is at first cautious and suspect but ultimately grateful to grab hold of the lifeline. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that. Anyway, she has memory gaps that need filling in about the most central day of her life.
But someone desperately wants the past to remain in the past. And a double-page spread in the Sunday Times is not on the menu.
Going in, readers know the whodunnit of this expertly plotted piece of domestic suspense, but not the why — why did Travis Green do what he did on that fateful June day? Plus, was there a co-conspirator, or did Travis act solo, and who is trying to keep Alison and Cassie from asking questions? There are mysteries galore in this suspense read that highlights the human impact of tragedies, from shootings to a terminal diagnosis.
As a character, Cassie is not always likable but at every point relatable (hey, I’m not always likable either) and makes a great lead character. She struggles to cope with her mom’s diagnosis and care being a single-mom-to-a-difficult-baby. There’s so much at play here that readers get to explore — a lot of character development, also for the side characters. In a mirror to Alison Patchett’s human interest piece, The Anniversary explores the aftershocks and cost of tragedy on a town and its people. The finale comes with an unexpected twist.
What’s more to love: chronic illness representation; postpartum depression rep; a slow-burn friendship element (a moms and tots group for the ages); realistic representation of what it’s like to be a new mom (how we can often feel judged and most often judge ourselves the harshest).
Book: The Anniversary
Publication Date: August 5th, 2020