Book #36: “Darkness, My Old Friend”

Fast Facts:

Book Title: Darkness, My Old Friend

Author: Lisa Unger

Genre/Audience: Psychological thriller, thriller, mystery, murder; adult

Rating: 9/10

Worth the read?: Yes! Please read it so we can discuss!

I’ve never delved into the realm of psychological thrillers, primarily because there are an overwhelming amount of authors, styles, series and stand-alone books to choose from. But my parents have had quite the collection for years (most of which they haven’t read, either), and I picked this book out for its title: Darkness, My Old Friend is so evocative and intriguing.

I turned to Goodreads to see if the general population thought this book was worth the read, and, overall, it seemed worth my time. What concerned me was that several reviews made statements along the lines of “I was 200 pages in when I realized that I couldn’t tell you what I was reading.” This was prevalent among most of the negative reviews.

Those reviews were valid and accurate. So, so accurate. At the start of each chapter, I had to pause and think through all of the characters to remember who it was we were now following. And we follow so many people in so many plots that it is incredibly difficult to verbalize (or type) a description of the book. After I finished reading, I told my mom that there were three main plots; then, as I was speaking, I realized that it was four…and then I realized that it was five. So, basically, it’s freaking difficult to explain this book. But that is what made me love it!

A review on the cover of my copy says the the book is “deeply plotted and complex,” and wow, wow, wow is that true. The interweaving of lives and stories is wonderful and definitely helped me feel like the novel was always moving forward.

The book is certainly psychological in nature, in that we are continually inside the heads of characters, experiencing their every thought, but it also feels wrong to call this a psychological thriller. Yes, it’s psychological, and, yes, it’s a thriller…but I think those are two separate categories here. It’s a small but helpful distinction.

I am notoriously bad at guessing the “whodunit” of stories like these, but I can say with pride that I successfully guessed the whodunit within the first hundred pages of this one. The sad part about that, though? The whodunit isn’t really a revelation in Darkness, My Old Friend, although the plot makes you think for a while that it will be. So, I was proud of myself, but then I wasn’t. Story of my life, really (ha!).

Some of the characters were terrible people, and my biggest critique is that essentially every male character’s first thought about any woman was sexually-driven and purely based on appearance. I hate the generalization that every male’s first thought upon meeting a woman is about her shape, skin, or eyes—or that their internal stream of consciousness would be so disgustingly lascivious. As the book progressed I began to understand why certain characters thought this way, but the prevalence of these streams made me think it’s a point of weakness for the author.

When all was said and done with this read, I found my thoughts returning to it for days. It was such a fun book! It certainly lives up to its name, as the book is riddled with darkness and an overtly melancholy mood. There are characters you root for and characters who frustrate, terrify, and anger; for the most part, they are believably broken people searching for peace and answers in a small-town where rumors hold immense power.

I have been hunting for more books by Lisa Unger in the past few weeks, but have yet to find any. I’m really glad that I went ahead and read the book amidst reviews that said it was too confusing to follow. It’s certainly not a book for everyone, but it was everything I needed and wanted when I picked it up.

Have you ever read Darkness, My Old Friend or anything else by Lisa Unger? Let me know your thoughts if so!

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