In her recent novel And Don’t Look Back, Rebecca Barrow has penned a psychological thriller with plot twists that parallel the intensity of a Criminal Minds drama. As the central character in this tale, Barrow creates Harlow Ford, who has spent her life on the run, moving to a new location whenever something triggers her mom’s paranoia. As a result, Harlow has had to reinvent, build, and dismantle several identities. Given this reality, the moments during which Harlow feels most at home are those moments spent with her mom in the car, “wherever they’ve been in the rearview mirror, whoever they’ve been fading away like a half-remembered dream” (15).
On one of these escape missions, Harlow’s mother, Cora, is tragically hit and killed by an eighteen wheeler. Bloodied and bruised, Cora tells her daughter in her dying breaths about a safe-deposit box in North Langston. “Open the safety deposit box. Keep running, and don’t stop” (23).
Trapped “in a loop of new identities, new places, and the same old fear she doesn’t know how to escape” (53), Harlow is tired of running and wants answers. She hopes to prove to herself, once and for all, that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Harlow wants to live a life out from under the shadow of her mother’s fears.
Harlow’s search leads her to Crescent Ridge, Washington, and to Severn House where she unearths a trove of dark and disturbing secrets. In Crescent Ridge, she meets Sloan Prescott, who tells her that Severn House is haunted. Although Harlow tries to claw those infectious words out of her mind, she is susceptible to that planted fear. Harlow tells herself “ghosts are not real, and the only people who bother making up stories like that are people who are too bored with their own lives, who look to tragedy for entertainment, gory tales to feed their appetite” (147). But the ghosts of the past continue to crop up in this lurid tale, and the shocking truth doesn’t emerge until the novel’s final chapter.
Readers will likely discover, along with Harlow, that we are all haunted by the ghosts of our past, by decisions made and discarded; by hopes, dreams, and what ifs; by regret, guilt, fear, and secrets better left buried. In the words of Barrow: “I am my own ghost” (317).
- Posted by Donna