Release Date: Feb 14, 2017
Imprint: William Morrow
Elizabeth wakes up from horrible nightmares, can’t focus on her job, and is obsessively protective over her five-year-old daughter, Remi. Elizabeth’s husband, Gavin, is trying to be supportive, but is running out of ideas on how to help his troubled wife. Ever since Elizabeth received an email from a former sorority sister, events from that time in her life that she thought she had moved past, now haunt her every day. How can Elizabeth move forward and find happiness in her life with Gavin and Remi when she doesn’t really believe she deserves it?
The Drifter starts with a prologue showing Elizabeth’s current life and then flashes back to Elizabeth, who then went by Betsy, in college in 1990. Most of the book takes place during Betsy’s college days at the University of Florida in Gainesville and tells the story of Betsy working, partying, and trying to fit in with the other girls at college. It illustrates how one act of violence that occurred at that time shapes Betsy’s entire life.
This book starts out strong and captures my interest in what had happened to Betsy at college that was so disturbing that it’s still affecting how she is functioning several years later. As the book continues, it’s revealed that a serial killer is striking on the University of Florida campus. There was a serial killer at this university at that time in real life, but the author has stated her novel is inspired by those incidents, but is not based on the details of the actual events. As I continued reading the book, I was expecting a mystery or a thriller, but it’s really a coming-of-age story and unfortunately has uneven pacing. After a great start, the book bogs down with the details of Betsy’s life during and right after college. I enjoyed the look at sorority life and college culture during this era, but I thought the book would be more suspenseful than it was. It gets old quickly reading about a lot of unlikeable people drinking, doing drugs, and hooking up. Betsy’s early days in New York with Gavin after leaving the traumatic events of Florida behind are equally depressing as she continues to make poor decisions because she has never gotten over everything she went through.
Overall, the book provides an interesting perspective of someone who never feels they fit in, made worse as she gets older as she struggles with feeling of guilt and efforts to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. It is tragic that what should have been the happiest days of Betsy and her friends’ lives were marred by violence and I have sympathy for Betsy, but don’t really connect with her. It’s a unique book and although the ending is a little too pat, it is a welcome respite from the sadness and events that make up the majority of The Drifter.