Based on a true crime but altered to better fit the plotline, this chilling novel is aptly titled. The term
lazy eye is adapted to better suit the psychological construct of Hannah Schutt’s worldview--what her husband, Joe, calls her “lacy” eye, her tendency to soften the truth to make it more palatable. After a brutal attack in their Everton, New York, home, where Hannah and Joe are brutally bludgeoned, Hannah has need of her “lacy eye” to deal with the trauma of a dead husband and a damaged face. Hannah has survived in spite of her grievous head injuries but retains no clear recollection of the night of the attack.
Though she nodded affirmatively to a detective’s questions at the scene, Hannah cannot later agree with her identification of her younger daughter, Dawn, as one of the assailants, though Dawn’s boyfriend, Rud Petty, was arrested and charged with the crime. Now that Rud has been granted a new trial because of the inadmissibility of Hannah’s response, the prosecutor from the first trial, Gail Nazarian, reminds Hannah of the importance of her testimony in the new trial. Hannah promises to do her best to remember that night.
At the same time, Dawn, who has been living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, since the trial and the grand jury’s refusal to indict her as Rud’s conspirator, asks Hannah if she might return home to live. At this point the whole drama unfolds, the years that have shaped the family before the traumatic event that still casts the shadow of suspicion on a younger daughter.
Treadway weaves real-time events with issues in the past, Hannah drifting between her current dilemma--recalling the details of the attack and Dawn’s return home--and encroaching memories of her tricky relationship with a daughter who was always an unhappy, misfit child, a girl who pales in comparison to her beautiful older sister, Iris. Now married with a child of her own, Josie, Iris is convinced from the start of Dawn’s guilt, frustrated that Hannah refuses to acknowledge Dawn’s complicity with Rud.
While this is the story, ostensibly, of a woman’s reluctance to remove the blinders she has stubbornly worn to soften life’s blows, especially with her younger daughter, it is as well a deadly reckoning should Hannah remember what her mind has chosen to forget.
Never a beautiful woman, Hannah married Joe, an accountant, as a result of their college romance, happily acquiescing to his need for order. The beautiful Iris is an anomaly in an average family, Dawn afflicted with a lazy eye, an easy target for bullies, often made the brunt of cruel tricks. Hannah has avoided disciplining Dawn, seeking to avert more pain for her child.
The habit has contributed to a potentially serious dilemma, if she is wrong about Dawn’s motives in coming home.
Though the writing isn’t particularly memorable, Treadway crafts a unique plot around a misfit girl who finally finds a handsome, perhaps sociopathic boyfriend, blinded by her obsession with him. She brings him home to meet her family. One day later, her father is dead, her mother gravely wounded. There are challenges: Hannah’s choice to stay in the house, the need for Hannah’s testimony at the new trial, Dawn’s strange behavior after returning home, the dark waves of memory that have begun to surface when Hannah is under stress. Why is Hannah so blinded to the danger of Dawn’s return home? Why does she carry the burden of guilt for an unhappy child (who falls in love with a killer)? Only Hannah has the shocking answers to these questions.