Never Let You Go
by Chevy Stevens
March 14, 2017
ARC + finished hardback via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press
Summary: Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash escaped into the night with her young daughter and left an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband was sent to jail and she started over with a new life. Now, Lindsey is older and wiser, with a teenage daughter who needs her more than ever. When her ex-husband is finally released, Lindsey believes she’s cut all ties. But she gets the sense that someone is watching her. Her new boyfriend is threatened. Her home is invaded, and her daughter is shadowed. Lindsey is convinced it’s her ex-husband, even though he claims he’s a different person. But can he really change? Is the one who wants her dead closer to home than she thought?
Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
A few years ago I had an unfortunately lackluster introduction to Chevy Stevens. To be fair, I mostly blame the narrator of the audiobook. Typically I’m the kind of reader that doesn’t give second chances: if you didn’t pull me in with one book, that’s it; there are far too many books waiting to be read to take a gamble on a potential disappointment. HOWEVER, something caused me to give Stevens another try and I ended up being completely wowed by Those Girls!
So when I found out Stevens was working on a new novel I was ecstatic. Even more so when I read the summary: after a whirlwind romance, Lindsey and Andrew married young, eager to start their lives together. It wasn’t long, however, until Lindsey began noticing a chance in Andrew, a darker side that wasn’t there before, but she could only blame it on a stressful job and alcohol for so long before finally admitting that Andrew was abusive – physically and mentally. It took even longer before she was able to leave. That fateful night Andrew landed in jail and Lindsey started a new life with their daughter. When Andrew is released eleven years later – and strange things begin happening to Lindsey (her e-mail is being read by someone, her keys are being moved around, her new boyfriend has been threatened) – it’s no surprise where fingers start pointing. Andrew swears he’s a changed man, but can Lindsey really believe him?
Never Let You Go uses one of my favorite storytelling devices: dual eras! This one is only a matter of 20 years, rather than the decades-long time skips I love so much, but I was enraptured nonetheless. Lindsey was working in a hardware store the day Andrew came in. It was an instant attraction and a wedding happened shortly after. So what if they didn’t live together beforehand, not every couple does, and besides, they had the rest of their lives to be together was Lindsey’s way of thinking. Their early years of marriage seemed perfect: still in his twenties, Andrew started his own construction business and it was booming. It was doing so well, in fact, that there was no need for Lindsey to continue working in the hardware store – especially not if they were planning on starting a family.
A doting, attentive provider of a husband who catered to her every whim, Lindsey truly had it all in Andrew. Until the cracks began to show. Andrew became quick to anger, why wasn’t dinner ready on time, like he’ll fall for the line about traffic being to blame for an overly long shopping trip, the mileage on the car doesn’t add up – the grocery store isn’t that far away. At first it was a beer or two at night. Of course Andrew would want to unwind after a long day at work, who wouldn’t? But soon those few beers doubled, tripled, and with each sip Andrew turned into someone Lindsey didn’t know. The name-calling and screaming was one thing, but everything changed the night their daughter witnessed Lindsey being pushed. Suddenly Lindsey realized she needed to leave. Now.
Never Let you Go lets the reader in on those early, blissful days in a seemingly happy marriage and it’s so easy to get caught up in Andrew’s actions. His business is a wild success, there’s no need for Lindsey to work. On the surface it seems completely harmless: Andrew’s bringing in more than enough money and they won’t have to leave their young daughter in the care of strangers. A total win-win, right? There’s even a happy turn when Andrew readily offers Lindsey’s father a job as foreman. It’s what her father had always done and is excellent at it, but when her mother fell ill, his absences piled up and he was ultimately let go and where is a 50-year-old man going to find another job like that? It’s only when you look deeper that you realize Lindsey is trapped: she has no income of her own, no way of getting help, and if she did leave, what would happen to her parents? Andrew would get rid of her father in an instant and her mother desperately needs medical care.
In the present, Lindsey has made a new life for herself running her own cleaning business and religiously attending a support group for domestic violence survivors, complete with a weekly trainer who teaches these women self defense tactics. Though it has been over a decade since the night Lindsey left Andrew, she still can’t shake the past, always looking over her shoulder, instilling in her daughter an unceasing vigilance in staying safe, making sure the alarm is set, keeping doors locked. The night Lindsey and her daughter left, Andrew followed. In a drunken stupor, he chased them down and ended up killing a woman. He’s been locked away all these years and now Lindsey has received word he’s been released.
I’m just going to stop myself there. Clearly Never Let You Go is a novel I can ramble about for days. Where Lindsey had once been naive and quick to trust, she’s now extremely cautious and protective of her daughter – and has only just recently got back into the dating scene where she found a nice guy. Sure they don’t have that passionate chemistry, but they enjoy each other’s company and he doesn’t set off any of Lindsey’s internal alarms.
Sophie, on the other hand, is the definition of a free spirit. She lives her life in a barrage of color: purple hair, patterned leggings, wild art. She loves her mom, but doesn’t understand Lindsey’s absolute terror when it comes to her dad. Sophie was only six when they left, but she remembers Andrew as a great dad who loved to take her with him wherever he went. (Lindsey, naturally, remembers those daddy-daughter outings as more of a threat on Andrew’s part: look how easily I can take her away from you.)
There’s a boy at school, the most popular boy, who begins to notice Sophie and, I’ll be honest, the storyline with him made me angry. I have a really good friend who’s a social worker and her stories of the women she sees every day are heartbreaking. Because of that, I had a hard time giving this relationship my support. Jared came off as a mini Andrew, an abuser in the making, and I honestly thought that was where the book was headed. His parents are outrageously wealthy and are rarely at home – the perfect equation for teenage parties, right? What Sophie assumed was going to be a huge party, turned out to be an excuse for Sophie’s best friend and the boy she likes to have a way to hook up. Alone with Jared, Sophie is talked into drinking and drugs, though she is firm on her stance that she’s not ready for sex. Later in the book, however, she relents, though she doesn’t remember agreeing. I’m convinced Jared slipped something into her drink and it’s never brought up again. As their relationship progresses, he basically pulls all the moves that Andrew did: wants to know where Sophie is all the time, why didn’t she immediately reply to a text, Jared begins making plans for them even though Sophie says she doesn’t want to do that or go there. Prior to them dating, they received acceptance letters to the same college. Sophie and her BFF always dreamed of going to the same school and getting their own place. It was pretty much set in stone until Jared decided that obviously Sophie would much rather share an apartment with him – he’s even going to put down money for it. He’ll “punish” her by ignoring her and not responding to texts or calls. One of the houses Lindsey cleans is Jared’s parents’ and he insists on calling her by her first name, innocently saying that’s what he calls her when she’s cleaning, but he knows exactly how it comes across – Lindsey is merely the help and doesn’t deserve any semblance of respect. Lindsey is right in being weary of this boy. I didn’t like him one bit and the fact that he was a good guy gives me pause.
I think part of the reason I loved this book so much was because it paralleled Behind Closed Doors, one of my favorite books of 2016. Also, it says a lot about a novel when it’s 400 pages and I read it in a sitting. It was that good.
Again, Never Let You Go is a book I clearly enjoy discussing – the good parts AND the bad. The characters felt all too real. Lindsey became so good at smiling, putting on a happy face for the world to see, that it really frightens me to think of how many people I pass on the street every day that could be going through exactly the same situation. Once the scene is set and Lindsey notices she’s being watched, her things are being touched, the action kicked into high gear and I was thoroughly hooked. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and stayed up WAY too late to see how it would all play out. While I do have some issue with the ending (forgiveness came very quickly to a character who didn’t deserve it at all) and Jared’s disturbingly abusive tendencies of his own were brushed aside, I SO heartily recommend this one. Chevy seriously pulled at the stops and I know this is a novel I’ll be thinking about – and recommending – for months to come!