Review of “Don’t Turn Around” by Jessica Barry

This thriller centers around two women, both of whom are in danger in different ways related to the “Me Too” movement.

Cait Monaghan, 25, works as a bartender in Austin but aspires to be a journalist. She submits a piece anonymously to an internet site about a disturbing sexual encounter she had with a well-known musician and it goes viral. Some men seem to take her article as a personal affront to the status and rights of men. Most of the comments are negative; some are downright threatening. The website is hacked, and her name and address get released. She begins to live in fear of her life.

A parallel story concerns Rebecca MacRae, the 36-year-old wife of a popular Congressman in Texas now running for the Senate. Rebecca has had five miscarriages in a span of 18 months, and she is pregnant again. An ultrasound reveals that the baby is irreparably damaged however, and will not live long – if at all. Rebecca thinks it is best for both her and the baby to end the pregnancy.

The two women meet because Cait works as a volunteer with the Sisters of Service, an organization that helps women in crisis. Cait takes the request to drive Rebecca to an abortion clinic in Albuquerque, picking her up at midnight in the interests of secrecy and security. But before long the two discover someone is following them, determined to drive them off the road at the very least. The roads are deserted, and the truck behind them rams into them repeatedly.

Both Cait and Rebecca know that, as Cait mused, “living under the constant threat of danger [was] just a part of being a woman in this world.” But the evil they encounter on the road is something more.

As they deal with the increasing danger and the terror it induces in them, the author cuts back in time to show how each woman came to this journey.

Discussion: The author, in recounting what the women are experiencing, explores various issues now roiling the country. Her main focus is the gendered difference in perception of sexuality, choice, and consent.  The author includes male characters who resent their lack of social and/or economic success and a failure of access to women, who in turn are now able to experience social and economic success without them. As research shows, this can lead to misogyny or even mental or physical abuse. The statistics on violence against women are staggering.  This acrimony is exacerbated by chat rooms on the internet, where like-minded strangers validate and encourage extreme behavior.  Numerous reports, such as those discussed here and here, reveal correlations between increases in online hate speech and offline hate crime.

While I am in full agreement with the author on her alarm over all of those issues, I thought she might have included even one man who wasn’t an abhorrent and/or unsympathetic character, just to make it seem more balanced.

Evaluation: The tension doesn’t let up in this very scary story. It also offers a lot for book clubs to discuss.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by HarperCollins, 2020

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2 Responses to Review of “Don’t Turn Around” by Jessica Barry

  1. Mystica says:

    Sounds intriguing as well as tense. Thanks for the review.

  2. stacybuckeye says:

    Not one good man? Too depressing.

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