I'd Know You Anywhere Summary

Summary

I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman follows the struggle of Eliza Benedict to confront and defeat the man who kidnapped and raped her when she was fifteen. When the novel opens, Eliza and her family have just moved back to Maryland after living in England for six years. The school year is about to begin for Eliza’s two children, thirteen-year-old Iso (Isobel) and eight-year-old Albie. Iso desperately misses England and acts out against her parents, whom she views as taking away everything that was familiar and dear to her. Although Eliza has not yet found her place among the other soccer moms in Bethesda, she loves their new house and is determined to make the best life possible for her husband and children. At the end of Chapter 1, just as Eliza is beginning to feel that things will soon be normal, she receives a handwritten letter: it is from Walter Bowman, a prisoner on death row who abducted Eliza, raped her, and held her captive for six weeks when she was fifteen. In his letter, Walter claims that he saw a magazine photo of Eliza and her husband at a work party and that he would “know [her] anywhere.” Thus, Eliza’s turmoil begins anew.

In Chapter 2, Lippman establishes the novel’s structure of alternating between the 1980s (the time period of Walter Bowman’s attacks) and the present day. In addition to its flashback structure, I’d Know You Anywhere also includes varied perspectives for its narration. None of the novel is narrated from the first-person point of view, but the third-person narrator alternates the focus from one character’s thoughts and actions to another’s. Hence, Chapter 2 allows the reader access to Walter Bowman’s thoughts and choices in 1984 when he begins his assault and killing spree. Walter, a college-age mechanic in a small town, believes that no one gives him enough credit for his looks or intelligence, especially girls. As Walter heads out on an errand for his father’s business, he spots a teenage girl walking along the road and offers her a ride. She unwisely accepts his offer. When he pulls over and tries to kiss her, she resists, and Walter murders his first victim—Kelly. Not long afterward, he kills a nameless girl who is mentally challenged.

As the book switches from Walter’s crimes in the 1980s back to Eliza’s present-day life, Eliza tells her husband and then her mother about the letter from Walter. Eliza’s husband, Peter, advises her to do whatever she thinks is best. Eliza’s mother, a psychiatrist who works with the criminally insane, tells her to consider what she would want from communicating with Walter, who is about to be executed. Eliza then flashes back to 1985, when she was abducted by Walter. One summer day, Eliza waits until her domineering older sister, Vonnie, leaves the house; then she puts on her Madonna-inspired clothing to walk into town. As she takes a shortcut through the woods, Eliza comes upon a young man with a shovel. He helps her across a creek but then refuses to let her hand go. After forcing her into his truck, Walter introduces himself, and so Eliza’s captivity begins. She is the only one of Walter’s victims who survives, and for some reason Walter decides to keep Eliza and pass her off as his younger sister. Eliza, an observant young lady, discovers early on what makes Walter angry and strives to avoid upsetting him. He maintains control and captivity of her by threatening to kill her family while she watches.

As she recalls all of the events of those horrific six weeks, Eliza decides to write Walter back. At first, she is not entirely sure why she does so, but part of her reason is to possibly bring closure to the families of Walter’s other victims and to assuage the guilt she feels from not saving another girl, Holly, who was abducted and killed by Walter shortly before Eliza was finally rescued. Eliza’s testimony as a teenager led to Walter’s being convicted of Holly’s murder and sentenced to death, but Eliza is haunted by the ghosts of Walter’s other victims whose families never knew their daughters’ fates. Before Eliza receives an answer from Walter, a mysterious woman calls her and tells her that she is the go-between for Walter. Although she will not tell Eliza her name over the phone, the woman forcefully persuades Eliza to allow Walter to add her to his call list. Eliza later finds out that the woman, Barbara LaFortuny, is an anti–death penalty advocate who seems to have become obsessed with Walter Bowman and saving him from lethal injection. Barbara later stops Eliza as she walks through her neighborhood, demonstrating that she and Walter not only know where Eliza lives but also that she has children. Eliza becomes even more protective of her children and sets guidelines for when Walter can call and what they will talk about.

After Eliza makes the decision to allow Walter to call her, she and Peter install a phone with a separate line. She keeps the phone in her bedroom so the children cannot pick it up. When Walter calls for the first time, Eliza talks to him briefly but then gets called...

(The entire section is 2066 words.)

Ed. Scott Locklear