Title: The Drifter by Christine Lennon
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
Megan Abbott meets M.O. Walsh in Christine Lennon’s compelling debut novel about a group of friends on the cusp of graduating from college when their lives are irrevocably changed by a brutal act of violence.
For two decades, Elizabeth has tried to escape the ghosts of her past…tried to erase the painful memories…tried to keep out the terrifying nightmares. But twenty years after graduating from the University of Florida, her carefully curated life begins to unravel, forcing her to confront the past she’s tried so hard to forget.
1990s, Gainesville, Florida…
Elizabeth and her two closest friends, Caroline and Ginny, are having the time of their lives in college—binge watching Oprah, flirting for freebies from Taco Bell, and breaking hearts along the way. But without warning, their world is suddenly shattered when a series of horrific acts of violence ravage the campus, changing their lives forever.
Sweeping readers from the exclusive corners of sorority life in the South to the frontlines of the drug-fueled, slacker culture in Manhattan in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, when Elizabeth is forced to acknowledge her role in the death of a friend in order to mend a broken friendship and save her own life, The Drifter is an unforgettable story about the complexities of friendships and the secrets that can ultimately destroy us.
Loosely based on the Danny Rolling’s case, The Drifter by Christine Lennon is an interesting novel about a woman’s struggles to overcome a tragedy.
In 1990, Betsy Young is looking forward to the start of her final semester in college. She is still best friends with her former sorority sister Ginny Harrington but her friendship with their other friend, Caroline, is quite rocky. Betsy is going through a bit of a rebellious stage as she tries to discover who she is and what she wants to be. She is eagerly looking forward to graduating early when her world is rocked by tragedy.
With her college boyfriend, Gavin Davis by her side, the two hastily relocate to New York, where Betsy’s attempt to reinvent herself as Elizabeth is only partially successful. Following the birth of their child when they are both in their late thirties, Betsy is struggling with her crippling and somewhat irrational fears when she receives an invitation to her former sorority’s reunion. Will returning to Gainesville help Betsy finally make peace with the unresolved issues from her past?
Although the Betsy, Ginny and Caroline are from very different worlds, they quickly become inseparable as they enjoy all aspects of sorority life. Ginny is incredibly sweet and easily makes friends while Caroline is rather caustic and a bit of a mean girl. Betsy is outspoken and unrepentant as she refuses to conform to anyone’s standards but her own. They are heavy into the party scene and Betsy’s love life is a series of one bad choice after another. Betsy’s friendship with Caroline hits a rough patch but Ginny manages to keep the peace between everyone. Caroline then leaves when the spring semester ends and Betsy and Ginny enjoy a quiet summer together.
Just as classes are about to resume after summer break, Gainesville is rocked by a series of murders but Betsy, Ginny and Caroline are soon back to their regular life of barhopping and parties. With Ginny and Caroline busy with upcoming rush week, Betsy is at loose ends when she begins hanging out with Gavin. Their relationship is barely beginning when tragedy strikes and in the aftermath, Betsy begins her long habit of running away from her problems. Easily convincing Gavin to move to New York, they each manage to find successful careers even though Betsy continues to avoid her problems with alcohol and drugs.
Beginning with an intriguing prologue in the present, The Drifter then flashes back to August of 1990 in the days preceding the series the murders in Gainesville. The novel continues to follow Betsy’s life with Gavin and her inability to cope with the events that occurred in before she moved to New York. While interesting, the story is occasionally bogged down in superfluous details that contribute little to the plot. Despite these unnecessary passages, the novel is relatively fast-paced as Betsy continues to struggle to work through the ghosts of her past. Christine Lennon brings the novel to a satisfying conclusion that has a few unexpected twists and turns during sorority reunion. A well-written debut that fans of the genre will enjoy.