Alexa Wú is a brilliant yet darkly self-aware young woman whose chaotic life is manipulated and controlled by a series of alternate personalities. Only three people know about their existence: her therapist Daniel; her stepmother Anna; and her enigmatic best friend Ella.
When Ella gets a job at a high-end gentleman’s club, she is gradually drawn into London’s cruel underbelly. With lives at stake, Alexa follows her friend on a daring rescue mission. Threatened and vulnerable, she will discover whether her multiple personalities are her greatest asset, or her biggest obstacle.
One woman, many personas. But which one is telling the truth?
The implied sense of a thriller combined with Dissociative Identity Disorder is what caught my attention.
Alexa is one person with a ‘flock’ of personalities climbing in and out of the nest and taking charge. Each of them—Runner, Oneiroi, Dolly and the Fouls—has distinct traits that help her cope under stress. They often fight among themselves and switch control far too quickly for an outsider to make sense but Alexa depends on them to move forward, one day at a time.
Alexa starts consulting Daniel, a new therapist, with the sole purpose of being eased off her medication but Daniel realises there is more than meets the eye with this patient. He must get the flock to reveal themselves.
When Ella joins Electra, a gentleman’s club, to earn money so she can get her own place, Alexa tries to warn her of the potential dangers. They soon learn that Navid, the owner, is exploiting women and running a trafficking ring. Having relinquished control to the flock, Alexa, despite her misgivings, gets dragged in with Ella to attempt to take it down. As she begins to trust Daniel, she reveals their intentions to him via the flock.
As weird as this premise may sound, the author paints the fragile effects of psychological trauma on mental health. Through Alexa’s identities she sheds light on the external and internal differences in mental status at a given time.
It takes time to sink your teeth in this book when for the most part there appears to be nothing significant other than the back and forth between the flock. As a consequence of her therapy sessions, the sexual abuse Alexa suffered as a child at the hands of her father is revealed. As Ella is drawn deeper into the blackhole, Alexa’s mental state takes a downturn and she becomes increasingly dangerous to those around her.
The complicated relationship she and the flock share with Daniel is perhaps the only reason I was compelled to keep turning the pages. Each of these characters are vivid in their presence and wholly absorbing. However, the story taking a dramatic turn when Daniel has an unexpected visitor during a session with Alexa is what takes the win.
This wasn’t an ordinary read and took incredible patience on my part to stick with it. And I am glad I did, for not only is it an insight on the delicate subject of mental health, it does so with a remarkably multi-layered plot that is both sensitive and original.
The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung. This edition due to be published in November 2021 by Pushkin Vertigo, a division of Pushkin Press. This ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Pushkin Press.
Book 48 of 2021.
Aquamarine Flavours Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟.
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