This was kind of a scary book. It is not for the faint-hearted. The beginning and the end were the worst. It starts off right away with death and tragedy and with Eileen being disowned by her mother. It was horrible and I couldn’t believe she would actually do that, but she did and never actually changed her mind. Then Eileen goes off on a miserable death-hunt, basically, and becomes a prostitute. It’s some dark stuff. I can’t say I know many people that would do the same thing.
After that, she lives with her two children and a kid breaks into her house. Then she kills him in self-defense, but surprise- the trial is rigged and she gets put on death row for murder. It’s to be expected- we’re talking Texas here, and she’s a black woman. I live in Texas. I can tell you that it’s pretty accurate. It’s completely unfair but there it is. Even she accepts it.
Most of the story, I think, is about children. Eileen’s constantly thinking about her children. Her buddy Mark is bent on revenge for all the abused children that ever existed. Children are their only real motivation. It’s interesting.
While that is going on, there is another theme of curing HIV. I’m gonna- going to- come right out and say it because it’s not much of a spoiler: Eileen doesn’t die when she is supposedly executed. She and Mark, also on Death Row (for killing parents who abused their children), instead become part of an experiment to cure HIV. They get shipped off to a heavily guarded island where the experiment can be closely monitored, and naturally Eileen still has to deal with all the lovely perks of being an attractive black woman (such as being lusted after and nearly raped by every single man who sees her). Honestly, nothing ever really goes right for Eileen. She fights a bit, but mostly relies on others to protect her and never really has to prove herself (until the end I suppose). So I’m not sure what to think about her. On the one hand, she’s a constant victim who has spirit and the will to return and take care of her children. On the other hand, she’s a woman who accepts everything that happens to her and relies on others to take care of her. But given how she constantly strives for forgiveness and actually has some clever ideas on how to survive, I’ll have to feel positively about her in the end.
Until about 3/5 of the way through, it probably feels like it could also be a love story (among the other themes). But that quickly becomes impossible when you realize that Eileen can’t CONTROL Mark, or tame him, and while he may seem sweet to her, revenge is really the only thing he cares about. He literally cannot control himself when he sees people abusing their children. He escapes death, and then continues to kill people. He’s a monster, albeit a clever and sometimes tender one. So in the end, he gets what he deserves, and Eileen ends up alone again (by that I mean without a man, but with her children).
It wraps up pretty much as expected, but there is a lot of indecision. It’s not a quick and happy resolution. There are complications. There were moments where I wasn’t sure WHAT was going to happen. That’s the mark of good storytelling.
Overall, though, the book left me with a bit of an uneasy feeling. I liked it, but it wasn’t a happy story at all. There was a lot of misery and disappointment for a satisfying ending.