Eliza Lerner Benedict, the novel’s protagonist, changes her name to Eliza from Elizabeth after she is rescued in order to create a new identify for herself at her new school. Later, as a married woman, Eliza is able to hide for years because of her married name and because of her move to a different country (England). During this time, Eliza has hoped that these changes in her name and location will allow her to escape having to think about how her past affects who she is and how she relates to others. As Walter Bowman reenters her life, Eliza must decide not only what she wants from communicating with him but also who she is. In the climax of the novel, when Eliza comes face-to-face with Walter in prison, she realizes that he is once again trying to manipulate her. But Eliza is no longer a naïve teenager who silently and passively observes Walter’s efforts to develop his own warped self-image. She is now a successful mother, wife, and woman who knows who she is and what she wants. She leaves Walter crying in his cell as she thinks “she would know him anywhere,” a claim that she was accustomed to him making about her.
A former true crime journalist, Laura Lippman superbly illuminates the varying effects of crimes on victims and their families. Trudy Tackett puts her life on hold after her daughter, Holly, is murdered by Walter. While she realizes that Walter’s execution twenty years after Holly’s death will not replace her daughter, Trudy believes that it is her obligation to her daughter to witness the execution. She also maintains her hostility toward Eliza, trying to impose survivor’s guilt upon Eliza and believing that she deserved to have her daughter returned to her alive, instead of Eliza’s parents experiencing that joy. It is interesting that, as a mother, Eliza understands Trudy Tackett’s rage but finally accepts that there was nothing she could have done to save Holly when she was only fifteen years old.
(The entire section is 833 words.)