Ransom River

Ransom River by Meg GardinerFull Title: Ransom River: A Novel
Meg Gardiner
Publisher: Dutton Adult (2012)
Number of Pages: 357
How long it took me to read: 2 days
Where I got this book: Off the shelf at the local library.
ISBN: 978-0-525-95285-5

Like a Moth to a Flame

I’m a fan of Meg Gardiner’s work and was especially interested in a novel that departs from her other series. I especially enjoy her Jo Beckett series, as Beckett is a forensic psychiatrist and I love Gardiner’s well-written work on this topic. I hoped that this book would also include some of her psychiatric knowledge.

Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “She knew they were in trouble. She knew it while they huddled beneath an oak tree, eyeing the night. She knew it an hour later when they went back to her house and she crept in her window. The neighborhood was dark and still. The van was gone. Her house was quiet. But things weren’t right. She knew it. She just didn’t know what was wrong. Not then.” (p.7)

4. “Since then, when faced with a challenging situation, she always asked, Worst-case scenario? And generally, the worst was not apocalyptic. Not slavery, prostitution, tattoos, or a job at the drive-through window at Arby’s. Yet.” (p.87)

3. “And Rory wondered again why the defendants hadn’t had the sense to screw around in a motel across the county line. If Officer Lucy Elmendorf had handcuffed Jared Smith to a vibrating bed in Bakersfield instead of playing Bad Cop, Really Bad Cop at Smith’s house in Ransom River, the victim might still be breathing.” (p.11)

2. “‘Well isn’t that peachy.’ Rory leaned back against the car. ‘They’re implying I had an affair with Coach and then had an abortion. Ain’t that just a pie full of turds with whipped cream on top.’
‘Especially considering Coach DiMezza was a woman.’ ” (p.228)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “ ‘If you tell, I’ll know. If anything happens to Boone, I’ll know. If your dad does anything, or your mom, or the school, I’ll know. And you’ll pay. You won’t know when. But anything you touch gets taken away. You poison it. If you touch it, you kill it.’ ’’ (p.149)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“Reading about bullying takes me back to my childhood. While I don’t believe there was a lot of bullying (I do remember some name calling), I was never bullied, so I may not have seen what was going on. But I do vaguely remember it taking place in high school, where some of my peers bullied a younger teenager. I didn’t understand why they were attacking her. I didn’t really know her well, but she seemed like a nice kid and her two siblings were popular peers.

“She died of an accident one summer. I remember a friend talking about how awful she felt that she had ostracized this girl. It seemed to me that the reality of the situation left behind at least two victims: the girl who was bullied and the other girl who had done the bullying. I wonder now about the other girls that did the bullying; did they learn anything about this behavior as did my friend, or did they grow up to be women who preyed on others.

“I also wonder about those who are currently being bullied, as I know it’s become somewhat of an epidemic in our schools, from grade school teasing to the hazing that takes place on college campuses. While there is more education taking place in the schools regarding bullying, there are still so many kids who need help accepting their peers with compassion instead of with disregard and disrespect. And I wonder about the kids who are doing the bullying—studies show that they have most likely been bullied themselves. Abuse festers abuse and while it’s wonderful that schools are teaching tolerance, the parents of bullies are also the ones who need to learn acceptance. I’m grateful to Gardiner for placing an emphasis on bullying in this book; it helps educate the general public on this topic.”

“Oh no, a dog-injury scene. I can read about people in horrendous situations, but I can’t stand to read about animals in distress. How anyone can hurt a defenseless animal is beyond me. I’m skipping through the bad part because it just turns my stomach inside-out. The cruelty of people astounds me and in my chosen profession, I see so many examples of how such cruelty has devastated other living creatures. While this isn’t a significant scene in the book, it relates to the pathology of one of the bullies, highlighting how sick kids and adults who torture animals are. In the so-called bible of psychiatric disorders, the DSM—IV Revised, those of us in the field see animal torture as a sign of antisocial behavior committed by those without a conscious. Whenever I read about animal torture in a book such as this one, I recognize that the author has a good understanding of how this pathology in children and adults is symptomatic of the sociopathy of the character. Gardiner does an excellent job of helping me understand the bullying, and downright evil, of these sick characters.”

“Creepy stuff. I’m reading about incest between step-siblings. Well, not technically incest as they aren’t blood-related although they did grow up together, but this is still a significant boundary issue. It reminds me of Woody Allen and the girl he helped raise and eventually married; just a little sick. Looking at these boundaries helps me understand the pathology within this family, for when boundaries are poorly constructed (either rigid ones or non-functioning, porous boundaries), trauma usually occurs. Tight, rigid boundaries keep others out, which is a way to keep secrets in. The old adage, ‘don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel,’ is one invoked by these family systems so that family members often don’t get the help they need since they’re too fearful of the outside world, and the possible repercussions from the family, to speak the truth. And very open boundaries allow anyone to enter and dysfunction occurs as there is no concept of saying ‘no’ and not allowing hurtful behaviors to occur.

“It makes me wonder, what do we really know about each other and our families? Boundary issues appear to be one of the main themes of the book, making me question the boundaries and secrets in my own family. For example, what do I really know about my distant family, or even my grandparents, parents and siblings? What has been told in truth and what has been told as a cover-up? And what is the purpose of hiding the truth? For in my work, I’m always trying to ferret out my clients’ underlying secrets because secrets keep us sick and dysfunctional. They fester within, and seep out in various unhealthy ways. Only by exposing them can clients develop healthy coping skills and learn to embrace themselves, others, and the world around them. I love how the author explores such secrets and boundaries and the resulting dysfunction of the various family members.”

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  1. Cappi says:

    Very interesting take on this book. The well written comments are cause to go and get the book at the library. It will be interesting to see if I agree with the reviewer’s favorite five.

  2. Cilla Payne says:

    This reviewer know what they’re talking about. His/her comments are enticing. I’ve read lots of psychology type books about the impact of bullying and what goes on in dysfunctional families and think I just may check this book out at our local library. Great review! Thanks for providing it.

  3. Janet says:

    Great review! The reviewers comments about bullying and boundaries hit the nail squarely on the head. I think I’ll be adding this book to my list of “must reads” very soon.

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