When a small-town family is pushed to the brink, how far will they go to protect one of their own? An edgy, propulsive read about what we will do in the name of love and blood
Tony has always looked out for his younger brother, Nick. So when he’s called to a hospital bed where Nick is lying battered and bruised after a violent sexual assault, his protective instincts flare, and a white-hot rage begins to build.
As a small-town New England lawyer, Tony’s wife, Julia, has cases involving kids all the time. When Detective Rice gets assigned to this one, Julia feels they’re in good hands. Especially because she senses that Rice, too, understands how things can quickly get complicated. Very complicated.
After all, one moment Nick was having a drink with a handsome stranger; the next, he was at the center of an investigation threatening to tear not only him, but his entire family, apart. And now his attacker, out on bail, is disputing Nick’s version of what happened.
As Julia tries to help her brother-in-law, she sees Tony’s desire for revenge, to fix things for Nick, getting out of control. Tony is starting to scare her. And before long, she finds herself asking: does she really know what her husband is capable of? Or of what she herself is?
Damage is a thoughtful family drama that tackles an extremely difficult and sensitive topic: sexual assault. But whilst we tend to hear more about women suffering this absolutely horrendous ordeal, in this case, it is college student Nick, violently raped by a man he met whilst on a night out.
The story then follows Nick’s family – his older brother Tony, who has been like a father to Nick since he was young, and Tony’s wife Julia – as they try to come to terms with what has happened, and the incredibly difficult and upsetting period after Nick reported the rape to the police and was awaiting trial. We jump back to the time period when it actually happened, and the present day. It’s a shocking and important look at what people who have suffered this have to endure, and the way that it keeps affecting not just the person who was directly impacted but all their family and friends too.
I found some of this book hard to read, but it was gripping and the characters were really interesting. Though most of the book centres on Julia and Nick’s perspectives, the story also switches to Detective Rice, mainly during the ‘then’ timeline, and I really liked this swapping between the characters. As Detective Rice investigates the case and works closely with Nick, Julia and Tony to try and ensure Nick’s attacker is brought to justice, we’re not sure if Nick is hiding anything. The person identified as Nick’s attacker claims that it was consensual, so it’s their word against each other’s. This uncertainty adds to the tension which runs high throughout this novel, despite it being fairly slow in terms of plot progression. I felt it was much more about the character development and the family dynamics than any action-packed court drama, and I loved it.
The second half of Damage felt, for me, a bit more fast-paced as we start to doubt whether Tony can handle what’s going on as he becomes more and more determined to hurt Nick’s attacker. I enjoyed this novel hugely and think it’s such an important read as it’s not only thought-provoking but also handles the topic sensitively and (I imagine) with authenticity too in terms of how this kind of case would go through the courts in the US. And the ending had a sort-of-twist that left me feeling satisfied… Definitely recommended!
Many thanks to Penguin Michael Joseph for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest review.