After a lifetime of parental abuse and childhood trauma, Elliott suffers from PTSD and severe bouts of depression and anxiety, often leaving her alienated from her peers, unable to keep pace with the rest of society. While going through her current phase of insomnia, Elliott meets Jason late one night on a street corner near the diner she frequents. They fall into deep, philosophical conversation, and while Jason shows some odd quirks, Elliott is an oddball herself. Their relationship is intense, unexplainable, and unconventional, but for the first time Elliott finds someone who exists on the same wavelength—a man with a difficult past and deep emotional trauma, someone who understands how her mind works. But just as Elliott begins to find happiness again, her life reinvigorated by Jason’s love, he reveals a chilling secret that betrays her trust, turning her world upside down—he’s a serial killer.
GUTTED is Elliott’s own account of her harrowing, sometimes messy, story, its fixed point centered around her relationship with Jason, almost immediately prefaced with the stunning truth that he’s a serial killer. Told with a strong sense of voice, Elliott’s unique perspective, shaped by her experiences—which she likens to being “gutted”—carries the entire novel. Her introspection is often densely-packed, her musings, her internal conflict interspersed with snippets of therapeutic conversations she has with herself, recalling her sessions. Sometimes it’s hard to follow the trajectory of her thoughts, but this narrative device adds so much to her character, almost a novel written in verse. The scattered pieces of her thoughts also lend realism to how Elliott copes with Jason’s many secrets and her own journey toward identifying her feelings.
Anna Madorsky’s writing itself captivates from the first page, as Elliott’s voice is threaded with an undercurrent of humor, often dark, and poignant, self-aware anecdotes that drag the narrative further into her mind, into the darker recesses of her character. Short, absorbing chapters only add to the unputdownable quality of the story, carefully crafted like a true crime account one can’t look away from, morbidly curious to discover the inner-workings of Jason’s mind. And while some of the other characters come across a little too grating, too over-the-top—which is likely just Elliott’s own perception—Jason is rendered with a dangerous, chilling complexity. Elliott reveals each side of him slowly, from his blunt criticism, his brief flares of anger, his quiet brutality, to his sweet, caring instincts toward her and his playful banter and adventurous, thrilling spirit. Watching her get lured into his web is both horrifying and engrossing to witness, a disturbing psychological profile. As Elliott is pulled into his double life, her own gets tangled in it, in ways that she might not be able to untangle again. Dramatic, shocking twists pile up, leaving her to make unimaginable choices. The last act is a fraught, tense ride through the darker parts of humanity.
Anna Madorsky’s GUTTED is a taut, harrowing psychological drama with a darkly humorous and poignant voice and a captivating debut about the human condition, loneliness, and being pushed to the outskirts of society.
~Jessica Thomas for IndieReader