No other crime fiction author can so perfectly and eloquently distill the complexities of female relationships in the way that Megan Abbott can and does repeatedly. Whether she is writing about classic femme fatales, kidnapping victims, high school cheerleaders, or elite athletes, Abbott has proven again and again that while her novels always center around crime, it is the female characters at the core that are truly worth exploring. With Give Me Your Hand, Megan Abbott once again excavates well below the surface in a story of female friendship, jealousy, and rivalry amidst extreme professional pressure.
Kit Owens and Diane Fleming meet in chemistry class at Lanister High. There is an immediate bond, a linkage that will follow them through life. What starts as a friendship morphs towards a competitive angle, with mutual respect and more than a note of fear always present. When both girls apply for the same STEM scholarship, a repeated pattern of healthy competition begins to emerge.
“…you don’t have a self until you have a secret.”
But then Diane tells Kit her darkest secret and the tentative nature of their friendship is shattered. The two part ways and life goes on. Kit continues with her interest in the world of science, rising up through the ranks within her laboratory-based career. When she hears that her idol, Dr. Lena Severin, is launching a new research endeavor examining the causes and effects of severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder, Kit immediately wants to be part of the team. The problem is, so do all her fellow Severinites at her current lab. Confident that she can beat any of them, Kit’s plans are suddenly thrown into disarray when Diane Fleming shows up also coveting a spot on Dr. Severin’s project.
“To be so ordered and so out of control.”
Bringing these two women together again stirs up the memories of their past together. Megan Abbott tells this story from the point of view of Kit Owens, so readers are only granted one half of the full story. This structure grants Abbott the ability to slowly build suspense around what exactly Diane’s secret is, to such an extent that it will have readers begging for relief. And when Kit does finally reveal the truth, the ramifications are felt both for the reader and for the narrative.
“Give me your hand…”
Not only is this the title of the book, but when those words are uttered at almost the precise middle of the book, the fate of these two women is forever linked and there is no turning back. Readers will have long felt the dangers at play within the novel’s tension and Megan Abbott makes that moment both shocking and inevitable. Many writers would lack the finesse necessary to pull off such a major moment, but Abbott allows it to flow naturally from the characters she has crafted. The idea of putting the book aside from this point to the final conclusion will never be an option for fans of psychological suspense tales.
“The blood is the life…”
On the surface, Give Me Your Hand would seem to be a story about women, for women, and of course, by a woman; and yet, Megan Abbott has proven over and over that she is able to draw men under her spell. She never shies away from going to difficult or controversial places, but she does it with measured restraint and beautiful language that is free of judgment. Much can be learned about our society by looking at how these two women ended up in their situation. The key to community is empathy and Megan Abbott is gifted enough to lead readers there without getting didactic or pedantic along the way. The scientific setting of Give Me Your Hand is so on-point with current trends that it makes for a refreshing change of pace within the crime fiction genre. It is to Megan Abbott’s credit that she never attempts to make this feel revolutionary, because while it may seem like a new angle for fiction, it is a journey women have traveled for years in reality. The verisimilitude of every action will send shockwaves while also entertaining any reader who dares open the cover.
Give Me Your Hand is another in a long line of successes for Megan Abbott. Don’t miss this novel – it’s sure to be one of the most talked about books of the season.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.