“The Woman in the Window” by A.J. Finn
Published Jan. 2, 2018, by William Morrow
“I saw what I wanted to see, what I needed to see.”
Dr. Anna Fox hasn’t practiced child psychology in nearly a year, because that’s the last time she left her house. A traumatic event left her with agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder. Now she spends her days trudging around the house she once shared with her estranged husband and daughter, chasing down prescription pills with massive quantities of merlot. Her pastimes include watching classic thriller films with her cat, playing chess online and peering at the neighbors from her always-closed windows.
But then a new family moves into the house across the park, and when Anna sees something horrific through their parlor window, the insulated world she’s constructed starts to fall apart. The worst part is that no one believes that what she saw was what really happened …
I was excited about this book, even though it seems bookstore shelves already had enough tomes about unstable women seeing or “seeing” awful things before “The Woman in the Window” came along. The cover was absolutely tantalizing, and I was fascinated by the concept of a psychologist losing her own grip on reality.
However, until I got about 150 pages in, I wasn’t sure just what the heck I was reading. In setting up Anna’s backstory, author A.J. Finn spends a lot of time meandering between past and present — almost too much time. My attitude toward most of the details about her everyday life, her relationship with her basement apartment tenant, etc., was becoming very much “who cares” until, FINALLY, the aforementioned “something horrific” occurred. At that point, I was relieved I hadn’t wasted my time but still aggravated at how long it took for the action to kick in. And once it did, I found myself forming a new theory as to what Anna saw with practically every page I turned. By the time I was finished reading, I was very much satisfied that Finn managed to fool me in the end.
I think my favorite aspect of “The Woman in the Window” is the imagery Finn creates. The house itself, the only place Anna feels safe, is a prominent character: “The house towers above me, the black mouth of the front door, the front steps like a tongue unspooled; the cornices form even brows above the windows.” Even the elements of nature, part of the outside world Anna fears, take on human/animal characteristics: “The storm is roaring like an animal. Wind claws the air, shreds it. Rain, sharp as teeth, bites into my skin. Water licks my face, washes my hair back.”
“The Woman in the Window” is a thriller that doesn’t necessarily grab the reader right away. It builds with a slow boil and a lot of underlying tension, and the reward is a nailbiter of a story with a shocking surprise ending.
About the author
A. J. Finn has written for numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Times Literary Supplement (UK). A native of New York, Finn lived in England for ten years before returning to New York City.
Bio and photo courtesy of author’s Goodreads profile