Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “You put something behind you, Nome, it’s got its eyes on your back. I’d rather see it in front of me, so I can see where it’s going.”
Naomi Bowes was raised in a religious home with a stern disciplinarian father and a submissive mother. When she follows her father one night deep into the woods, she discovers her father’s secret-he is a serial killer. He kidnaps, rapes, and then kills the women. Naomi risks her own life to save his current victim which results in her father’s capture, arrest, and subsequent imprisonment. She, her mother, and her younger brother all move in with her uncle and his boyfriend, in attempts to move on with their lives.
Older and wiser, she finds the house of her dreams and impulsively buys it. This leads to friends and a man who places himself in her path every chance he gets. As Naomi slowly sets down roots and begins to flourish, her past rears its ugly head in a series of murders that all point back to her father and someone’s ugly obsession with her.
Nora Roberts’s The Obsession is a compelling character driven psychological thriller with elements of suspense and romance. In fact, I would say the first half of the book has a strong women’s fiction feel to it. Detail oriented, it builds slow and steady as Roberts’s introduces and places us into the head of our protagonist-Naomi Bowes. Well written with engaging narrative and a strong sense of self, Roberts’s reveals the intentions of this book in two sections. The first half of the book is set in the past, following Naomi’s journey from childhood through high school. We experience first hand how she discovered her father’s crimes and the effects it had on her and her family as the world turned it focus on her father’s notoriety. The emotions are a potent mixture as we see how long her father’s reach was from prison; from her mother’s inability to shake the hold her husband has on her to so her called friends who wanted to capitalize on her family’s pain. The atmosphere of this section is dark, gritty, and bittersweet.
“You don’t understand.” Susan began.
“I understand. I started understanding that night in the woods. It’s you who doesn’t understand, Mama.”
The second half is set in the present; picking up after Naomi has graduated college and well immersed in her career. Naomi is a freelance photographer who has always stayed mobile and unencumbered by man or material items. Her decision to purchase an old antebellum style house in desperate need of renovation shocks her. It speaks strongly of her mindset and need to finally settle down. Having taken her mother’s maiden name, she is secure that she will be able to live here without the ever present pall of her family’s history hanging over her. For the first time since a young adult, she is able to have people in her life without the fear it’s for her past rather than her present. A lighter atmosphere permeates this section, giving readers a reprieve from the earlier horror. Here we see an even stronger Naomi, secure in her life and choices she’s made. She is finally ready to settle down and take her life in a new direction and it has a number of surprises in store for her. One is Xander Keaton.
Similar to my last favorite standalone of Roberts’s-The Witness-we encounter a strong, intelligent, emotionally isolated heroine with a lovely dry wit and a deep-seated vein of vulnerability. Seeing the changes in her from child to adult is an interesting compilation of events-especially when you see that the core of her has remained the same. Calm, cool, and collected, she has no issues with speaking her mind. She automatically does what is right regardless of the consequences. She doesn’t try to fade into the background and allow others to speak or walk over her. She knows what she wants and has the tenacity and know how to get it.
Roberts’s continues to chronicle Naomi’s life with intricate scenes detailing her new home renovation to her interactions with the town and its residents. enjoyed watching of her new home emerge from the ashes of its former self-rather like Naomi herself. She is evolving; choosing to embrace that changes that are scary to her. I also liked seeing how she deals with the constant intrusions in her life after being an island unto oneself for so long. One such intrusion being a man, who like Naomi, has never been one to want to commit to anyone long-term.
“I don’t fall in love, and I like living alone.”
Xander Keaton, a man of many contradictions, sees a beautiful woman and is intent on making her acquaintance. Her reluctance for any romantic entanglements only serves to fuel his curiously and lust for her. It’s only after a tentative friendship develops between them does he begin to see a kindred spirit and his lust for her gradually changes to something far more serious. A notion also shared by her. I liked that while Xander was an important aspect of Naomi’s healing, he doesn’t overwhelm the storyline with his own issue. He is a charming, attractive, and laid back man who serves to help Naomi learn that she has the right to a life, friends, and love.
The suspense aspect of the story creeps in slowly towards the end, almost like an afterthought to add some tension and help bridge the past and the present. I admit I guessed almost right off the bat who Naomi’s stalker was and was a bit disappointed at how it presented itself though I liked how it served to show just how oblivious Naomi had become to anything that didn’t immediately concern her. Roberts’s uses the stalker plotline to reintroduce Naomi’s family (her uncles and younger brother) and I enjoyed seeing them years later. Especially Naomi’s brother, FBI agent Mason. It was interesting to see how he and Naomi chose to deal with their past; Naomi pushing it far into the background while Mason embraced and used it.
The Obsession is the perfect escape from reality largely due to its heroine. The intriguing story line coupled with dynamic characters and a soft but potent romance only serves to remind the reader why Roberts’s continues to be such a prolific and popular author. I look forward to her next standalone and really hope to see Mason in a story all his own.