Behind The Red Door by Megan Collins
Published: August 4, 2020 – Atria
E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley
When Fern Douglas sees the news about Astrid Sullivan, a thirty-four-year-old missing woman from Maine, she is positive that she knows her. Fern’s husband is sure it’s because of Astrid’s famous kidnapping—and equally famous return—twenty years ago, but Fern has no memory of that, even though it happened an hour outside her New Hampshire hometown. And when Astrid appears in Fern’s recurring nightmare, one in which a girl reaches out to her, pleading, Fern fears that it’s not a dream at all, but a memory.
Back at her childhood home to help her father pack for a move, Fern purchases a copy of Astrid’s recently published memoir—which may have provoked her original kidnapper to abduct her again—and as she reads through its chapters and visits the people and places within it, she discovers more evidence that she has an unsettling connection to the missing woman. With the help of her psychologist father, Fern digs deeper, hoping to find evidence that her connection to Astrid can help the police locate her. But when Fern discovers more about her own past than she ever bargained for, the disturbing truth will change both of their lives forever. (publisher)
My take: Fern Douglas is on summer break from her job as a school social worker. When her father calls and says he needs her help to pack up his house before his move to Florida she agrees. Fern is consumed by her anxiety on a good day but it is amplified when she returns to her home town. She hopes the new meds her doctor prescribed will start to be effective. Author Megan Collins explains the reason for Fern’s anxiety and I was definitely creeped out by pretty much everything. I’m not going into the details but will say if you enjoy a high creepiness factor it is here in spades. Fern is anxious about almost everything and can spiral from even minor triggers. I felt badly for her. That said, the good old unreliable narrator is alive and well in this novel and kept playing in the back of my mind as I read.
Fern also worries about having children – something her husband very much desires. The way Fern was raised, while not physically abusive, makes her uneasy about her ability to be a good parent but she has no doubt her husband (the opposite of her father) will be a wonderful father.
The story moves between present day and the years of Fern’s childhood (and the kidnapping of Astrid). Have her memories been repressed or are they imagined? I wasn’t so sure about Fern.
My final take: although I skimmed through a few parts of this book (that creep factor) I think fans of psychological thrillers will probably like it. It’s was different from others I’ve read in the genre in that it made me feel more anxious.
About the author:
Megan Collins is the author of The Winter Sister and Behind the Red Door. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University. She has taught creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Central Connecticut State University, and she is the managing editor of 3Elements Review. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Off the Coast, Spillway, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Rattle. She lives in Connecticut.