Blackout by Erin Flanagan
Maris is freshly sober — seven months in, after a much-alluded-to rock bottom moment. She’s white-knuckling through wanting a glass of wine at all the usual points in her day, but grateful to no longer wake up with a fuzzy half-recollection of the night before. Her family, a daughter and a relatively new husband, haven’t directly addressed said sobriety, but everyone seems to be functioning well. And then, Maris has a blackout… but she’s still sober.
A professor fighting for tenure and seemingly still battling with a lot of inner demons about being a bad mother and wife, Maris blames that blackout on exhaustion and keeps it to herself. She keeps it to herself even though her moments of lost time increase in frequency and duration (because, as you will learn, Maris makes horrible choices for inexplicable reasons). Finally, a poorly timed blackout leaves her in the emergency room, and that’s when she learns that other people — some of whom she knows — are also having the same problem.
The whole book is slow and scattered yet outlandish. There are pacing problems, though the novel is a quick read. The rest of the story from the ER onward is a twisting path through relationship drama (those bad decisions again), a whodunit investigation, a bit of science fiction and some really corny attempts at being relevant and modern thanks to heavy-handed feminist references.
I am a feminist and the kind of social justice advocate many people dislike, and even I am like, oof, that’s inauthentically wedged in. I love a book with feminist themes, but this book, though not a bad book, had feminism, social media, teenage drama, alcoholism, academia, and a cartoonishly evil villain shoehorned into it.
Maris’s motivations and decisions are bizarre — the kind of book where you, the reader, are like, COME ON, JUST TELL SOMEONE WHAT’S HAPPENING — and the various deus ex machinas, while inadvertently hilarious, made me groan. At one point, Maris logs onto ‘the dark web’ and is suddenly a skilled hacker, so that’s what you’re working with here.
Blackout tried to do too much at once, and while it was perfectly readable, it’s not a book I’d go out of my way to pick up again.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.