Kristy Tucker has two men in her life; Ryan, her teenage son and Pops, her ailing dad. She keeps the other men in her life at arm’s length. But then she would; they are all on death row, and her interaction with them is simply as a press agent for the Texas Department of Corrections.
Ryan has never caused any problems. He is a quiet lad, more interested in debates than sport. So when Kristy finds out he has gone behind her back and started martial arts, she is confused and annoyed. Until she meets his instructor, Lance.
Kristy has now three men in her life. She is married to Lance. A man who turns from being her soulmate into a monster. A man who takes pleasure in abusing Kristy; beating her and pummelling her confidence and self-respect into the dust. But when Lance hints that Ryan and Pops are no longer safe either, Kristy can see only one way out. And she’s learned a lot from the men she’s kept at arm’s length.
The Walls is written in the third person, past tense, from Kristy’s point of view, except for regular letters from Clifton Harris, one of the inmates on death row. Although it is important to get to know the protagonist in her everyday life, this aspect is somewhat laboured and I found myself growing impatient. In fact, by the time the action started, I was bored with her, and failed to truly connect with her for the rest of the story.
It didn’t help that the author seems to be packing in as much information as possible. It is superficial, leaving the overall impression of quantity over quality. The information lacks emotional impact, merely classing Kristy as a stereotypical future victim. The only difference in this protagonist from others is her career.
Lance again is stereotyped – the mysterious man who breezes in from nowhere, with little or no history to share. However, his descent from a romantic knight in shining white armour into a wife abuser is smack on, if superficially covered. And Kristy’s reactions and behaviour are convincing, and symptomatic of an abused wife. Her actions will leave people who haven’t been in an abusive relationship shouting at her to grow a pair. But those who have been there will understand that stress doesn’t just create the fight or flight instincts, and they will sympathise with Kristy’s prolonged paralysis.
Melodrama creeps in rather than drama, which creates a distancing effect. The characters do not leap from the page, other than, surprisingly, Clifton Harris. He is the only character with whom I connected.
I could have stayed unmoved by this book, and it certainly did not have enough senses-driven writing to create atmosphere or to draw me alongside Kristy. However, I found it almost impossible to put down. First, because I was intrigued to find out if Kristy would be a true protagonist, growing, evolving and sorting her conflict single-handedly, or whether she would rely on her work-based contacts to help her out. There are no spoilers here – read the book to find out! Second, because there is a good balance of introspection, dialogue and action, which makes The Walls a fast, easy read, even if it doesn’t have much depth.
It is the plot that makes this book compelling. And although there are disappointments with the ending, I think the story will stay with me for a while. The Walls is certainly worthy of a read, and a cautious thumbs-up.