Dr. Anna Fox is a child psychologist suffering from extreme agoraphobia. After separating with her husband, she starts self-medicating by drinking bottles upon bottles of merlot and misusing a medley of prescription pills. She hasn’t left her home in New York City for 10 months. When a couple and their teenage son move in next door, Anna peers through their windows with her Nikon camera. She gets a glimpse into this mysterious family’s life that others don’t see—in particular, a haunting crime that she reports to the police. But she hallucinates, she drinks, she doesn’t take her pills properly, and so no one seems to believe what she saw through the window.
The Woman in the Window is A.J. Finn’s (Daniel Mallroy’s) debut thriller novel, published in 2018. I was captured by Finn’s descriptive writing style and thought ‘Wow, this is the perfect plot for a mindlessly munching on popcorn, don’t watch at night, suspenseful movie” —well, it’s already been filmed and is set to release next year in the United States. (Details here)
Finn’s writing style is one that’s extraordinarily full of detail and imagery. He loves his similes and metaphors. Almost to the point of being too much, but not quite. His writing is so vivid, that it almost feels like you’re reading a romance novel until the story turns creepy.
I have a picture of Anna in mind that Finn painted with words as she looks in the mirror: “Wrinkles like spokes around my eyes. A slur of dark hair, tiggered here and there with gray, loose about my shoulders; stubble in the scoop of my armpit. My belly has gone slack. Dimples stipple my thighs. Skin almost luridly pale, veins flowing violet within my arms and legs.” I became friends with Anna throughout our time of 427 pages. My heart ached when she spoke about her daughter Livvy, her husband Ed; when the police thought she was simply out of her mind.
I like the irony of a psychologist with agoraphobia—not only does Finn show how extreme anxiety can be, but he suggests that it does, in fact, happen to people you’d least likely expect to struggle. Anna’s mental illness is a realistic portrayal of what many people are dealing with: the fact that she finds comfort in the buzz from drugs and alcohol and faints when she leaves her home.
The story was quite slow-moving for the first 100 pages or so, but then Finn jumps out of chronological order and leaves you overflowing with questions—and this is why I couldn’t stop reading. Of course, the pieces fit together in the end, yet he leaves you wondering until the very last few pages.
I had high expectations of this book as an instant bestseller on New York Times and praised by Stephen King on the inside flap. I can’t say the plot was all that unique for a thriller—there were elements that I predicted, but then again, there were twists that had my eyes inches away from the page, back sore because I was hunched so much into the book. With that being said, there’s a reason why many thrillers have similar plots: it’s intriguing and entertaining. Regardless of a somewhat predictable plot, Finn’s writing style truly makes this novel its own. He knows how to write in a way that it’s like a movie is playing in your mind; you’re a fly on the wall in Anna’s house, or maybe peering through the eyes of her house cat.
A novel with his writing style and a more creative, less of a typical thriller-like storyline, would be a ten out of ten from me.
The Women in the Window
By A.J. Finn
427 page. 2018
Jayda Noyes is a journalist in Saskatchewan, Canada, but has been a lover of creative writing for much longer. She’s fresh out of university with a bachelor's degree in journalism, and now writes for a small city's daily newspaper. While she's passionate about giving others a voice, creative writing is how she gives herself one. She shares her poetry on Instagram (@creationsbyjayda) and her website (creationsbyjayda.ca), connecting and drawing inspiration from other creators.