Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Thomas Tessier
Published by Leisure Books
Ah, love. That undefinable emotion that has plagued mankind since we first learned to walk on two legs, and quite possibly long before. At its very heart, Tessier’s Rapture is a love story, albeit one with a very twisted sensibility, and it’s likely that no matter how bad it all gets for the characters he creates, there’s still going to be a moment or two (and likely more) in this book that you will be able to relate to.
Our story centers on Jeff, a self-made millionaire who is brought away from his workaholic California lifestyle, back to his hometown in Connecticut when his father passes away. Jeff and his dad were never close so he’s not terribly upset when the news comes down, but he does see it as a chance to get away from his business for a few days, a long-overdue vacation, through which some unfortunate tasks have to be accomplished.
Immediately upon arriving in town, we learn that for Jeff’s entire life he’s been obsessed with only one girl; Georgianne, who he’s known since high school but has never managed to express his real emotions to for fear of rejection. When he learns that she is now happily married and living not too far away, he extends his trip and makes time to seek her out.
Right away we get the impression that Jeff’s tunnel-vision like focus on Georgianne may not be all that healthy, but he’s kind enough to her husband, and absolutely enraptured with her 18-year-old daughter, and they have a great time together. When he gets back to California, however, he begins to make a plan to win Georgianne away form her current life, which he sees as stifling and nowhere near what she deserves, despite every indication from her that she is as happy as can be.
Unlike what most of us would do, call or write a letter and just lay our feelings out on the table, rejection be damned, Jeff decides the best way to get her away from her husband is to convince him that they are truly in love and it’s time for him to move on. Her husband, Sean, doesn’t take to well to this news, especially considering Jeff confronts him with it on a surprise visit back in the middle of Sean’s morning jog, and pretty soon Sean is more than just “out of the picture”, as it were.
Jeff returns home and waits. He gives Georgianne time to grieve and get over her late husband, and then Jeff begins to call her twice a week, like clockwork, in order to worm his way into her affections. He believes he’s doing well so plans another trip back, under the pretense of a fictitious business venture, but finds that his love is not shared in the most awkward way possible, and soon he’s returned home with a new focus; Georgianne’s lovely young daughter.
Though there is one violent scene with Sean, in which we finally see beneath the cool exterior of Jeff and get a glimpse of something far darker, most of Rapture is set up to allow the reader to wonder how much of what is going on is genuine, and how much is being made up in Jeff’s head. It is truly a slow burn novel, but it works so well because Tessier knows exactly where he’s going with Jeff. He believes he’s making headway with his childhood sweetheart, but every now and then the author affords a look from her perspective to get a taste of just how wrong he is.
Though one would likely expect that Jeff would go more and more outwardly mad during the course of trying to get Georgianne to love him, the exact opposite is true, which is another example of Tessier’s fantastic grasp on both pacing and characterization throughout Rapture. Just when we get comfortable and begin to think we can see where it’s all going, something dramatic happens to change the entire course of events and we begin to see what’s really happening to Jeff and all those whose life he insinuates himself into. For anyone who knows the sometimes corruptive powers of unrequited love, Rapture is a truly terrifying tale.
I could go on, but this is a meal best eaten slowly and deliberately, not fed to you by some pushy waiter. Though at times the book seems to drag, there is a building tension under the surface that makes reading Rapture an intense experience all to itself. This is real horror; the way it should be done; the horror of everyday life, the quiet insanity beneath the surface of even the most normal of people, and all in all a great novel from start to finish.
4 1/2 out of 5
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