Friday, 19 February 2021

The Savior by Abdellatif Radja

The Savior by Abdellatif Radja
Self published in November 2020.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three years after the tragic death of baby Sarah, Emily decides to have a child again. She hires a doula and tries to settle into a semblance of normalcy.

On a cold autumn morning, husband David wakes up to find a note from Emily on the refrigerator door: Goodbye Forever.

David wonders why Emily left him just a few days before her due date. Well, their marriage isn't the most perfect in the world, but he did everything he could to save it, or at least that's what he thought.

Under mounting pressure from the police, David decides to take matters into his own hands. With the few secrets he learned from the doula about his wife, he begins unearthing more and more shocking secrets.

Did Emily really decide to disappear?

I had quite good hopes for The Savior when I started to read it. Billed as a psychological thriller, its central characters are a wife and husband whose lives were devastated by her severe post partum depression after the birth of their first child. I sympathised with the character of Emily, despite the terrible thing she had done, and was intrigued by the way her husband, David, had organised his domestic life during Emily's enforced absence. A manipulative, chauvinistic man, there is lots not to like about David and I frequently found myself wondering what on earth had attracted Emily to him in the first place!

I was confused by Abdellatif Radja's failure to set The Savior in a definite location and felt this negatively affected my ability to believe in all the characters and their motivations. I guess, by their names - Emily, David, Patricia, Samantha, Hannah - and some scenarios that the novel is targeted towards a mainstream white American audience, but the overall settings felt too flimsy and generic for my tastes. The dialogue is often strange too, but I did actually quite like the poetic style of Radja's prose.

As the story progressed, I thought it was going to explore the realities of a woman living in the shadow of post partum depression. Having recently read Elisabeth Horan's powerful poetry collection, Just To The Right Of The Stove, on just this subject, I felt it a brave direction especially for a male author to take, but unfortunately this was not to be the case. After Radja sets us up for various psychological aspects in the first half of the book, he then sadly veers abruptly into implausible thriller fare for the second half with lots of gun waving, two-dimensional cameo characters, and half explored plotlines that fizzle out. Rapid scenes get increasingly more violent and less and less believable, and the whole mental health aspect, which initially drew me in, ultimately ends up with a shallow, stereotyped portrayal of 'crazy woman'. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Abdellatif Radja / Thrillers / Books from Algeria

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