It’s terrifying how quickly everything can be taken away from you. Iris learns this agonizing lesson in the blink of an eye. Her future dreams. Her past life. Everything gone in a storm of pain. But this pain is only the beginning.
Audrey had the perfect life. Great husband, beautiful daughter, lots of money. Except her husbandisn’t the man she thought he was. Her dead husband’s burner phone was bad. The Polaroids were worse. But the secrets she uncovers next set her entire world on fire.
Two women’s lives intersect because of one man’s actions. The transformation is pristine,and beautiful, and filled with pain. Sometimes the scars are on the inside.
Burner by Robert Ford is a book that will grab you by the throat, and won’t let go until long after you’re done with it. The very depths of human emotion, suffering and loss are skillfully navigated by Ford, resulting in a compelling but devastating story that shines a light on the world’s cruel truths.
We follow two narrators, Audrey and Iris, bound together by the actions of a man. Audrey’s half of the story has what is initially a “Pretty Girls,” by Karin Slaughter set up. When her husband Paul dies following a sudden stroke, not only is her heart shattered, but she must now step up to provide for herself and her daughter, Sarah. She puts her grief to one side, and calls up Paul’s work in order to share the news of his death- only to find he has never been employed by the business. She checks their joint account, expecting nothing- to find $9,500,000- made up by a series of transactions of $35,000-$70,000 from the “Hawkins Group.” The result of Paul’s mysterious background is an uncomfortable roller coaster ride for Audrey, and a poignant exploration of grief and betrayal for us.
We meet Iris during her interrogation, following her “Survivor,” – J.F Gonzalez-esque experience. Once, she was a happy, engaged paediatric student, but following the brutal murder of her fiance Nate, and her abduction- she has been reduced to a hollow shell of her previous self… and a criminal.
Ford offers up a profound and emotionally charged story line- and whilst the use of symbolism throughout does hint at the mystery surrounding the plot’s core, there was no “Eureka,” moment for me until the firestorm revelation at the end. I was impressed.
Burner is a real reminder that the real monsters are often human ones. Equally, it’s a reminder of the strength found in confronting and overcoming adversity- and just how brave we can be when we’re pushed.
When writing about grief from the first person, it is imperative that the characters are delicately written, and basically leap off of the page. Ford NAILED this, with a cast of three-dimensional characters, that I truly felt for. Through the vessels of Audrey and Iris (two very strong female leads) depravity, curiosity, and an unabridged glimpse into the human experience are DELIVERED.
The ending… THE ENDING. In a word- bleak. I’m talking Ania Ahlborn bleak. By the final chapter, Ford has already ripped out your heart, put it through a meat grinder, and served it to you on a platter. The final, earth-shattering twist, truly finishes you off, and it certainly left me staring at the wall for a while after.
So, wrapping up now, Burner is a book fuelled by rage, grief and general upset. It is not for the weak, or empaths… and is only lacking in comfort.