by Christine Lennon
Release Date: February 21st, 2017
2017 William Morrow
Paperback: 384 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Thriller
Source: Review copy from Aurora Publicity
3.5 / 5 Stars
two decades, Elizabeth has tried to escape the ghosts of her past…tried
to erase the painful memories…tried to keep out the terrifying
nightmares. But twenty years after graduating from the University of
Florida, her carefully curated life begins to unravel, forcing her to
confront the past she’s tried so hard to forget.
1990s, Gainesville, Florida…
Elizabeth and her two closest friends, Caroline and Ginny, are having the time of their lives in college—binge watching Oprah,
flirting for freebies from Taco Bell, and breaking hearts along the
way. But without warning, their world is suddenly shattered when a
series of horrific acts of violence ravage the campus, changing their
The Drifter was actually quite different from what I thought it was going to be; it read more like a women's fiction novel rather than the thriller/mystery it was touted to be, and it took me quite a while to adjust my thinking while I was reading. Don't misunderstand me though, there was a murder, several in fact, in this novel, but the story was more about how these murders affected the life of the main character, Elizabeth, rather than the solving of the crime.
First of all, I wasn't a big fan of Elizabeth right from the beginning. The book tracks her last year in college, with many flashbacks, which I suppose could be confusing for readers who aren't fans of that technique, tracking in particular the last five days before her life is completely changed. My dislike really has nothing to do with her behaviour or anything of that nature as I myself went through my undergrad during pretty much the same time period, but there was something off-putting about her, something I couldn't quite put my finger on while I was reading. Her character was a bit aloof in the novel so it was sometimes hard to empathize with her behaviour towards other people; her lack of self-esteem often made her judge others quite harshly and made her do and say things that could be quite nasty. It did take me back to my uni days though, and some of the descriptions were quite fun to read. Despite the heavy work load, university was so much fun and it's good to revisit those days once in a while. The author captures this culture quite well, and I enjoyed the visit back through time.
Because the novel can't quite decide the genre it's in, either a mystery or a women's fiction novel, I thought it fell somewhat flat on both counts. While the descriptions were interesting, and I liked the flashback method of storytelling, there just wasn't enough to really make it great. There was a lot to work with in this novel as I thought the friendship between Ginny, Caroline, and Betsy was quite interesting, but the reasons for why their friendship continued just didn't work for me; there had to other reasons why a woman would hang around someone who is constantly nasty to them other than just low self-esteem. The betrayals and backstabbing were much more interesting, but were never fully developed; they were just mentioned, and then gone again. I hung on for quite a while waiting for the big secret to come, the big crushing blow, but when it did, it was kind of disappointing. I get that what happened would be with someone for life, but the actual scene kind of felt like an afterthought. I also thought the murders might have played a greater role in the novel considering they were based on real-life events.
One of the bright lights in this novel is the author's writing style which I did enjoy quite a bit. While I had a problem with genre and whatnot, I definitely liked the descriptive writing in this novel and I liked the use of flashbacks to tell the story. And while I was not a big fan of Betsy and I definitely did not understand her, she was well-developed and had many interesting sides to her, some of which did take me by surprise. I think I just would have liked for her to be nicer. Many people have more serious problems then she did, but they don't necessarily let it take over their lives like she did. And while it was glossed over, perhaps what she really needed was another visit to her therapist to find out why she couldn't identify with other people and function in the world.
The Drifter is one of those books you keep reading because the author has a way with words and descriptions. I wasn't overly fond of Elizabeth, and there were many times when I just wanted to shake her, but it was interesting to see how he different characters changed over the years and how they interacted. While the story does move quite slowly, and it's more of a fiction novel than a mystery, it does resolve quite well with an ending I really enjoyed. As for recommendation, if you are looking for a mystery, avoid, but if you are looking for a fiction novel, you might want to take a look, if anything for the trip down memory lane.