Book Look: Our Kind of Cruelty

Have you ever gotten stuck on a genre of book? A particular author? Yeah, me too...but what about a feeling? When I read Gone Girl and Sharp Objects, I loved the way the words slipped under my skin and stayed there. I loved the vaguely ill feeling I got when I read them, like I was looking at a part of me that unsettled me and, really, I wasn't sure if I liked it. That's what kept me coming back for more.

I plowed through Mud Vein, Bad Mommy, and The Wife Between Us chasing that feeling, wanting another look at this part of me that reveled in glimpsing the darker side of humanity. I think one of the reasons we turn to fiction is because we want a look at something we aren't. We turn to fantasy because it's a world we'll never live in, dystopias because they're a world we may live in very soon. People seeking romance tend to stray towards romance novels, people who want a bit of a thrill or a puzzle like suspense or murder mysteries.

I like turning people inside out, seeing the things that make them tick. I always kind of wanted to become a criminal psychologist; people are crime scenes and I like to look at their damage, see where they went wrong. Maybe it's from a driving need to fix myself, hell if I know, but I've been looking through these novels about women who aren't portrayed in a stereotypical fashion. Women who are allowed to be broken or damaged, who are allowed to be dark, messy people without needing to change.
When I picked up Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall, it somehow managed to be exactly what I was looking for and not all what I wanted.

Before I delve any further into this, I need to make a disclaimer: this book dealt with stalking and harassment in an obsessive-relationship-gone-wrong kind of scenario. Unfortunately I have also dealt with stalking and harassment with three separate men. It's creepy and inexcusable behavior, I don't put up with it in my personal life but it does make for good fiction. If you're triggered by that kind of situation, then I'm going to recommend you not read this book because it goes places.

This root of this story is between Mike and Verity, a couple with dangerously obsessive compulsions. They're the kind of couple you get concerned about because they're always together, the co-dependency runs deep with them...or at least it did until they broke up following Mike's move from London to New York. Roughly a year later he's returning to London with a healthy bank account and a mission: to reunite with Verity and finally start his life with her.

Except she's marrying some other guy.

And he's pretty sure this is a part of a sexually-charged game they used to play when they were together. In fact, he's sure this whole engagement has been to make him pay for a tiny infidelity, and once Verity sees how sorry he is and the kind of life he's built for them, surely she'll come back. She can't go through with this sham of a marriage because they're meant to be together.

Aren't they?

Mike's obsession with his ex-girlfriend is laid out in the first chapter, as he tells his side of the story while he's waiting for his trial to begin. Because he killed somebody, and his lawyer seems to think that if the world knows the story, it'll go better for him. Through the narrative, he finds a way to lay his dangerous obsession at Verity's feet. His behavior is her fault, none of this would have happened if she'd just done the right thing and come back to him. If she'd just accepted his apology. Everything would have been fine.

I love the way this novel portrays abusive behavior in relationships, the way the victim doesn't always know how to respond to dangerous, obsessive behavior because they never know what will make it worse. As someone who has dealt with stalking and a deeply abusive relationship, I could identify with Verity so completely, it wasn't hard to put myself in her shoes and see this relationship from her perspective.

Unfortunately, that meant I was sitting there in abject horror as I watched her make mistakes when dealing with Mike: trying to solve her problems with him without involving the police, without telling the people who loved her. Everything would have ended so differently if she hadn't tried to handle it on her own.

I bet you think you know who died.

I'm willing to bet that you're wrong.

This book twists in ways I hadn't expected it to. I'm normally pretty good at calling the plot twists before I see them, but much like in The Wife Between Us, there were just so many things I didn't see coming. The ending was definitely unexpected, but there was a sense of symmetry to it. It couldn't have wrapped up any other way without leaving the reader feeling robbed.

I'm definitely recovering from a bit of a book hangover after this one, but the search is on once more. I need something that will unsettle me. It's pretty much fall, guys, and though I normally reserve this season for all things spooky, I will settle for being emotionally disturbed. What do you think, do you have a recommendation?


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