Anna Collomore’s novel is not without flaws, but—like any good thriller—it will keep you flipping the pages
A manipulated 18-year-old girl is on the edge of insanity in the intriguing psychological thriller The Ruining by Anna Collomore.
Annie Phillips wants nothing more than to leave her hometown of Detroit to escape her past. Her younger sister drowned when Annie was a child and she is convinced her mother’s drinking problem and carelessness played a huge part in the accident. Annie carries the burden of her sister’s death, blaming herself for not having been able to prevent it. When the opportunity arises for Annie to move across the country to work as a nanny for the Cohens—a wealthy Californian family—she packs her bags as quickly as she can and jumps on the first plane out of Detroit.
As soon as she steps onto the plane Annie begins crafting a fantasy of what her life in California will be like. She immediately falls in love with Zoe and Jackson—the children she will be responsible for—and quickly develops a strong bond with Libby, the matriarch of the family. Libby takes Annie under her wing, acting like the big sister Annie never had. Annie even develops a special relationship with Owen, the Cohens’ neighbour. Although things seem promising in the beginning, Annie’s fantasy quickly turns into her worst nightmare.
As Annie becomes busier with her first college semester at San Francisco State University, the family dynamic shifts quite dramatically. Libby starts blaming Annie for doing things Annie does not remember doing, she tries to limit Annie’s contact with the outside world, and she breaches her privacy by unhinging her bedroom door. Libby slowly infiltrates Annie’s mind and intricately weaves a web of lies that Annie comes to believe, which ultimately leads her to question her own sanity.
The novel examines the damage traumatic experiences can do to one’s mental stability. Libby uses Annie’s troubled past to instil in her a sense of constant worry and anxiety. The line between what is real and what isn’t is effectively blurred, leaving the reader perplexed for the duration of the entire novel. It is never clear whether Annie is imagining certain things or if they are actually happening, which creates constant suspense during the story.
However, Collomore ties up all the loose ends in a very predictable way and does so perhaps too quickly. The events unfold in a way that make it seem like she was in a rush to let the characters have their ‘happily ever after.’ Furthermore, there is a lack of cohesion in the final details and the resolution of the story is very clean and simple, which is contrary to what one might expect from this kind of plot.
Although the ending could have been more skillfully executed, the way that Annie’s interior monologue can capture a reader’s attention and mind will make you race through all 313 pages.
The Ruining was published in February, 2014. You can get a Kindle copy on amazon.com for $9.81