Written by Sherry Joyce
Katie Crouch’s new psychological thriller, Abroad, will keep you reading long into the night, but may interfere with your sleep. The riveting story of a young college woman on an Enteria study program in Grifonia, Italy will make you ponder the all-important merits and detriments of belonging to a group, what one sacrifices to feel needed and loved. Many women have observed cliques in college, but perhaps none was as secretive, manipulative, and destructive as the one described in this novel. Yet readers will understand how easily one can be pulled into a realm of quicksand-like darkness even when one’s better judgment should have given off warnings. The need to be accepted, on any level, is as strong a motivation as is the fear of being rejected and alone in a foreign country.
Crouch’s superb writing portrays a cathartic journey of discovery and deception in the main character’s exploration of self-image, and how she presents that image to those she encounters. Her journey abroad gives Taz the freedom to abandon the confines and security of home, to explore being someone other than herself—a naïve, terminally responsible girl from Ireland, fluent enough with three years’ of Italian, to be studying in Grifonia, Umbria, chosen merely because it was purported to be safer than Florence.
Crouch masterfully weaves a historic dimension to the fictional town, Grifonia, rife with the secrets of a malevolent organization, illustrating numerous early century deaths of young women. You feel their spirits lurking in the dark alleyways, longing to tell their stories. The Etruscan mythology is mesmerizing, pulling you deeper and frightfully close to the edge of a precipice. As a reader, you have considerable omniscient knowledge and insight as the story unfolds, with danger lurking on the heels of Tabitha, the young innocent abroad. Taz is caught up in a web of treachery, reminiscent of the recent headlines of the Amanda Knox trial, giving razor sharp insight to what might have really happened.
Perhaps there is no seduction as strong as believing you are needed, and no addiction as powerful as maintaining the feeling you are loved. Abroad will shatter wistful illusions about leaving the comforts and banality of one’s routine existence at home, so easily traded for the lure of the possibly illuminating, life-changing experience of studying in a foreign country.
The exploration into the complexities of contemporary friendship, with its functional and dysfunctional maladies, strikes at the humorous and painful cords of this novel. It will undoubtedly spark vociferous debate in book groups as they contemplate whether parents should encourage their daughters to study abroad and the vulnerability of young women. I highly recommend this novel for lovers of crime with its dark psychological undertones, who perhaps have taken a leap into the abyss themselves, and have survived unscathed.
Meet Katie Crouch and discuss her book at the National Reading Group Month Event Co-sponsored by WNBA-SF and Litquake 2014.
Mysteries at Opera Plaza! The Thrill of Shared Reading
October 11, 2014, Saturday, 2:00 -4:00 pm
Books, Inc., Opera Plaza 601 Van Ness Ave., SF 94107