REVIEW: DREAM GIRL, BY LAURA LIPPMAN

 

In the end, has anyone really led a blameless life?

 

Injured in a freak fall, novelist Gerry Andersen is confined to a hospital bed in his glamorous high-rise apartment, dependent on two women he barely knows: his incurious young assistant, and a dull, slow-witted night nurse.

Then late one night, the phone rings. The caller claims to be the “real” Aubrey, the alluring title character from his most successful novel, Dream Girl. But there is no real Aubrey. She’s a figment born of a writer’s imagination, despite what many believe or claim to know. Could the cryptic caller be one of his three ex-wives playing a vindictive trick after all these years? Or is she Margot, an ex-girlfriend who keeps trying to insinuate her way back into Gerry’s life?

And why does no one believe that the call even happened?

Isolated from the world, drowsy from medication, Gerry slips between reality and a dreamlike state in which he is haunted by his own past: his faithless father, his devoted mother; the women who loved him, the women he loved.

And now here is Aubrey, threatening to visit him, suggesting that she is owed something. Is the threat real or is it a sign of dementia? Which scenario would he prefer? Gerry has never been so alone, so confused—and so terrified.

Chilling and compulsively readable, touching on timely issues that include power, agency, appropriation, and creation, Dream Girl is a superb blend of psychological suspense and horror that reveals the mind and soul of a writer.

 
 
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From the very beginning of Dream Girl, I was caught up in the mind of Gerry Anderson, an author whose memories take him back and forth in time.

As he lies in his bed, cared for by two strange women who are passing for nurses, it doesn’t take long for me to feel the intensity of what is bound to come in this situation.

The letters and strange phone calls that may or not be happening lead us on a slow and torturous journey toward a horrifying end.

Even as I worried about how things would unfold, I didn’t imagine how dark things would become. I rooted for Gerry, even though he was not the kind of protagonist one might cheer for. A surprising twist at the end stunned me, even as I knew that I should have seen it coming. 4.5 stars.

 
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