"There are some stories that don't need to be told." Anne keeps secret the story of her daughter's father in order to protect Thea. But Thea is now 12 and the Internet is a powerful tool. For reasons unknown to Anne, Thea has recently changed into a volatile preteen, her relationship with Anne strained by deceit. Since Thea is tight with Anne's mother, Rose, Anne schedules a girls' getaway to a remote cabin, hoping to reconnect. There, the past fractures the present, threatening the lives of all three women.
Jen Waite is infinitely qualified to write about psychopaths, having shared the story of her former marriage in a courageous memoir, A Beautiful, Terrible Thing. Waite now folds her experience into a novel, Survival Instincts, focusing on the lengths to which mothers will go to protect their children. Starting "Four Days Before the Cabin," Waite alternates timelines and points of view as Anne, Rose and Thea head to the cabin. Meanwhile, an unidentified man spins a tale of violence as he goes on the hunt.
Waite deftly dips into the past to fill out the framework of her characters and ultimately connect the women to "The Man." Satisfying turns and surprises highlight the narrative, which, despite some extraneous exposition, remains tense and quickly paced. Waite keeps readers invested in each woman, despite their human faults and wrong turns, and everyone will wish they had a grandmother like Rose. Waite's fiction debut is an intense story of women doing what it takes to survive. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review