Holy introduction Batman! If the first section of The Obsession doesn’t grab you and pull you in, then you might as well put down this bestseller by Nora Roberts. Naomi Bowes, who at almost 12 is both a little naive and very mature for her age, discovers a secret her father’s been keeping and it’s far from the bike she was hoping to receive for her birthday. Instead, on a hot and muggy night in West Virginia, just a short walk from her family’s home, she follows him to the woman he’s been holding captive in a hidden and locked root cellar. Helping the young woman, Ashley, to safety, Naomi discovers this isn’t the first woman her father has tortured, raped, and killed. Her young life changes in almost an instant, as do those of her brother Mason and her mother.
The hold Naomi’s father has over the family doesn’t change when the family takes her mother’s maiden last name, Carson, nor when they move in with her uncles and hop from West Virginia to Washington D.C. to New York to further escape the press. In fact, Bowes has a hold on Naomi’s mom that’s both hard to understand and reads as one of the most disturbing bits of the entire book. Unable to let go and move on, the Bowes family has a shadow that follows them constantly. While the book gives a pretty good look at Naomi in the direct aftermath of her father’s capture and until she graduates high school, it then skips ten years and the reader is reintroduced to Naomi in her late twenties.
Naomi as an adult is a surprisingly complex and rootless woman, living her life behind the lens of a camera, capturing the world, but never really becoming a part of it. That is, until she finds a gorgeous old house to bring back to like in Sunrise Cove, Washington. As she breathes life into the house, the town and the incredible community in it, allows her to plant roots and become one of them. A woman who had no wish other than to be alone, now has a house full of repairmen, a loyal dog, friends and she’s caught the eye of the town mechanic Xander, although he’s so much more than a one-dimensional love interest. He’s also complex, interesting, and surprisingly imperfect. We’re also reintroduced to Naomi’s brother, now Special Agent Mason Carson.
With Naomi’s new life comes new complications. Still running from her past, she’s not looking to come clean to Xander and then the impossible happens. Women are being abducted from Sunrise Cove and their bodies are found bearing her father’s signature trademarks. Her father who is serving a life sentence in a prison across the country. Naomi must now go deep into her past to find the answers to ensure her and those she loves, have a future.
I appreciate that Nora Roberts doesn’t offer up a love story with the traditional perfect characters and circumstance. She offers up flawed, but interesting characters and a story so far from normal that it’s hard to get caught up in the steamy moments. The Obsession will make you lose sleep. The sections about rape and murder will make you feel sick. Having the perspective of the killer in the later part of the book made me feel more than a little uneasy.
By the end of the book, which was slightly more predictable than I would have liked, those questionable sections felt worth it. I was reminded multiple times of The Witness, another Roberts’ book, while reading The Obsession. It seems as thought there’s a formula to the characters and plots in her books. Women experiencing trauma early in life, living extremely independent as adults, falling in love and finally trusting a man who helps them heal, surviving an attempt on their life, then living happily ever after. I’m not knocking it, the circumstances are certainly creative in each book and The Obsession was a solid read.