You don’t have a self until you have a secret.
Kit had never known ambition until she met Diane. It was as though Diane’s brilliant mind showed Kit everything she could be, everything she ought to be, everything she would be.
But then Diane told Kit a secret, a secret so dark and heavy, Diane could (can) barely stand carrying it. But once high school was over and the two parted ways. Kit thought she would never see Diane again until a decade later Diane walks into Kit’s lab changing her life – both their lives.
“Women have to live so much of their life in the in-betweens.”
In this twisted psychological thriller, Megan Abbott once again turns her eyes to women, mastering a story that intersects their lives, their struggles, their successes and failures, and above all, their secrets.
Give me Your Hand is a novel that works on many levels. Structurally speaking, it goes back and forth between the present and the past showing Diane and Kit’s relationship through time. It is a twisted, violent, dark tale where the beginning and the ending intertwine in wholly unexpected ways.
Starting when they first met at a summer camp (when Diane was the first one to share a seemingly innocent secret) and eventually leading the two women down similar career paths. When they meet again at Doctor Severin’s Lab, a woman who has inspired both of them to go into science, they are both hoping to work on a two-year study of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) that just got green-lighted (with a lot of money in the bank). Their potential rivalry is only a recurring facet of their relationship – one that is fraught with moments of real closeness and understanding as well as fear and distrust.
Thematically speaking, this is a story that allows for larger-than-life themes such as ambition, science and patriarchy to feed and be fed by the inner workings and feelings of its female characters. The fact that they are scientists, working on an environment where their colleagues are mostly men and on a unique project that exclusively deals with women’s health is not a small deal. There are micro and macro aggressions that both women endure on a day to day basis and their relationship with the head of the lab – another brilliant and ambition woman – is another side of the story. One that never follows predictable pathways, the author once again doing what she does best: allowing her women to be clever and ambitious. Sometimes even violent.
It is in the micro and in the innermost that story truly shines though. From Kit’s psychological torment upon learning of Diane’s secret, to the way the story unravels Kit’s mind. From the fact that Kit is the only narrator here and it is her viewpoint that – right or wrong – shows us Diane the way Kit imagines her to really be to how the story tells us more about Diane without undermining Kit’s own perspective.
“By telling me, you trapped me,” I say through my teeth. “By telling you,” she whispers, rain still glistening on her, “I was free.”
Give me Your Hand is a brilliant thriller, a fantastic story about secrets and friendship.
Rating: 8 leaning toward 9.