BOOK REVIEW: The Woman In The Window

The Woman in the Window Book Review

Read “The Woman In The Window”

I’m writing a new book. The first draft is done. That’s when I read ‘Wired for Story‘ by Lisa Cron.

It listed ten psychologic triggers to boost a story’s appeal and readability. I took notes as I went through the guide. And in the end, I decided to completely rewrite my manuscript, and create a fresh second draft with these triggers embedded within it.

Still, I wondered.

At best, I might include four or five of the 10 triggers. Was it even possible to write a book that incorporated all of them?

That’s when my friend Priya recommended A.J.Finn‘s debut novel, “The Woman In The Window”. I’ve just finished reading it.

Wow! It pushes ALL those buttons – and then some.

Almost from page one, I was captivated by Finn’s storytelling. And in a very short while, I had so closely identified with the lonely woman who stared out of her window at the world, at her neighbors, without ever leaving the seclusion of her home – that I could feel each of her emotions the author so beautifully evokes.

Much of the story is told in the form of our protagonist’s internal monologue/dialogue. This gives a reader, step by step, an ever growing insight and engagement into her life, and what brought her to the current crisis.

“Well — so I’m going to see you next week,” she says.

Maybe not. “Yes.”

“And will you call me if you need anything?”

I won’t. “I will.”

It’s been a long time since I last read a book, cover to cover, line by line, without skipping a few words, or even paragraphs. In fact, with “The Woman In The Window”, I often found myself going back to savor the lovely phrases and snippets over and over, before moving on.

“This past summer, his music wandered toward the house, approached my living room, knocked politely on the glass: Let me in. I didn’t, couldn’t — I never open the windows, never — but still I could hear it murmuring, pleading: Let me in. Let me in!”

“I cast my mind back, like a fishing line, across months, across seasons.”

“I study myself in the mirror. Wrinkles like spokes around my eyes. A slur of dark hair, tigered here and there with gray, loose about my shoulders; stubble in the scoop of my armpit. My belly has gone slack. Dimples stipple my thighs. Skin almost luridly pale, veins flowing violet within my arms and legs. Dimples, stipples, stubble, wrinkles: I need work.”

There’s a cadence and rhythm to a piece of great writing that makes this story a fun and easy read.

And the underlying theme of a lonely lady struggling with the twin addictions of alcohol and anti-anxiety medications is brought out subtly, beautifully, by sequences like this one:

– – –
“I feel fit for fight, ready to face the day. Ready for a glass of wine. Just one.”

Followed a few lines later by:

“An hour later, during my third glass:”
– – –

Movie buffs will find the (too?) numerous references to cinematic classics enjoyable. Although I’m no cinemaphile, many of the films cited were in my favorite genres, so the allusions didn’t all go over my head.

The story progresses at a nice pace. And as I read along, a sequence of questions popped up one after another – each to be answered in the next few pages.

“Why does she suffer so much from fear of leaving her home?” quickly changes to “What could have happened in her past to make her so afraid?”

And then, as the writer leaves us quite literally hanging from a cliff, “When will we learn the rest of her story?” – and finally, “Would I feel any different if this had happened to me?”

And sprinkled through the narrative are several quietly dropped hints, the dozens of future-pacing tidbits that are seamlessly connected up later in the story, to fill in blanks and gradually reveal the complete picture.

But Finn doesn’t just set up high expectations, only to disappoint. I recently finished Anita Shreve’s “The Pilot’s Wife” which, although a decent read, ramped up the crisis to such a pitch that, beyond a point, I felt nothing could fulfill after such a build up.

“The Woman In The Window” makes no such wild promises – and brilliantly delivered on the ones that it made. Rarely before have I felt such a deep sense of satisfaction when a story ended.

And even after the thrills subside, the last bit, which seemed like an epilogue, actually brought me the biggest rush of the book… when my heroine broke through her barriers to soar. (Notice how she’s become MY heroine there?! That’s how closely I identified with her, by the end)

This lovely story soars right into my top 10 picks of all time… alongside long time favorites like The Godfather, Unbroken (you can read my Unbroken review here) and The Day of the Jackal. I will definitely be reading it another two or three times. And maybe get a paperback edition to highlight, as well.

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The Woman In The Window
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