'Behind Closed Doors'
By: Susan R. Sloan
(Hardback / 480 Pages / Warner Books / ISBN: 0446530298 / $25.95)
Description: The final retribution of a battered wife is a familiar trope, to which Sloan (,I>'Guilt by Association'; 'Act of God') brings an eye for detail: in this bulky novel, she gives a blow-by-blow account of how a woman comes to marry an abuser, how a man turns into an abuser, and how both manage to keep the violence a secret for some 40 years.
Verdict: At 18, smalltown Vermonter Valerie O'Connor marries gorgeous, macho airplane mechanic Jack Marsh and moves with him to Seattle, then California, where she pursues her dream of raising a large family and he pursues other women. As disappointment turns to anger and need to rage, Jack turns to drink. Valerie bears the brunt of his outbursts — though her children do not escape unscathed — but she fails to act until Jack's fury focuses on his grandson. Sloan's victim revenge novels draw power from the methodical (some might say relentless) way she guides the reader incident by incident, misstep by misstep, through the lives of her characters. Witnessing intimate moments in the newlyweds' bed, or the drug-addled thoughts of a grieving mother, the reader knows what Valerie must do long before she does. If Sloan favors thematic development over language and spontaneity, she makes up for it with her compelling portrait of a troubled family.
Reviewed by Claire Heart