The Twilight Wife
A.J. Banner
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Buy *The Twilight Wife* by A.J. Banneronline

The Twilight Wife
A.J. Banner
304 pages
December 2016
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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When a diving accident deprives marine biologist Kyra Winthrop the last four years of her memory, she must depend upon her husband, Jacob, to fill in the blank spaces: their private history, their marriage, and their decision to live on remote Mystic Island in the Pacific Northwest, over 100 miles from Seattle, Washington. Not that Kyra is complaining, despite only patchy access to the Internet, their life on the island one of simplicity and serenity as she recovers. Still, recurring nightmares plague her sleep, blurred images and sporadic memories rising to the surface, memories with no context.

Kyra’s amnesia after the accident is profound, a lack of information that requires infinite patience as Jacob explains again and again, Kyra unable to retain the information he describes. Kyra appreciates the long hours her husband spends reminding her of the experiences they shared, the hours spent over carefully curated albums of photographs of Kyra and Jacob together. Though frequently frustrated with her inability to remember, she is comforted by the unbridled sounds of the sea and the treasures it yields, bits of the past tumbling in the surf.

In spite of Jacob’s assurances and reminders, Kyra cannot quite settle into this perfect life with the handsome, devoted husband who obviously has only her comfort in mind. Strange thoughts intrude into idyllic days then slip away, a slight jarring of memory that feels familiar but not quite right. In lieu of her absent memory, Kyra must rely on Jacob. But the further she goes from home, the closer to town and the village shops, the more Kyra experiences a sense of déjà vu, familiar places and people. Jacob describes these things to Kyra, the happy times they’ve shared. She believes him--but not quite. The fragile structure between husband and wife is built on the fragile balance of the familiarity of his stories and her growing silent resistance, though she has no reason to doubt him: “Just because someone talks about murder doesn’t mean they actually intend to kill someone.”

The nightmares persist, more frequent and disturbing. Kyra despairs of ever being content with her loss, of appreciating Jacob’s efforts instead of feeling confined, too often smothered by his love. Accepting that she may never regain her past, Kyra tries to quell the lurking suspicions she’s been harboring of late, chiding herself for doubting Jacob. Yet she is unable to fully embrace a man who is essentially a stranger. They maintain a tentative balance. Jacob tries his best to anticipate Kyra’s every need. Kyra, in turn, disguises her guilt when images flash through her mind, images that are out of sync with what she knows to be true. She continues to encounter “strangers” she has met before on her excursions, places she has been.

Whether Kyra is living a true life with Jacob or the shadows in her mind are obstructing a dark secret between them, it is a fascinating concept. Jacob’s devotion is unquestionable, even when his tendency to overprotect Kyra becomes a wedge between them. He is terrified after nearly losing her. As this intense psychological dance plays out between Kyra and Jacob, other characters add context to their island existence, far from civilization. Nature becomes a character as well, the pounding sea and sandy beaches emphasizing their distance from the world and its distractions. Mystery Island is either a place for healing or a glorious prison, with sporadic communication and occasional ferries to the mainland. Kyra struggles to make peace with the life she has and accept the loss of precious memories, the cost of survival. The couple's dance spirals into denouement against nature’s grand canvas, memories of the accident rushing back--along with the truth.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2017

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