Review

The Price

by Alexandra Sokoloff

In
THE PRICE, Alexandra Sokoloff takes her readers to chilling but
familiar territory and somehow finds a new area to explore while
ratcheting up the atmosphere to an excruciating level.

The setting for almost half of the book is the children’s
wing of Briarwood Medical Center in Boston, where five-year-old
Sydney Sullivan has been hospitalized for treatment of a malignant
tumor. Her parents are the perfect storybook couple. Joanna is
intelligent, beautiful and, at least on the surface, self-composed.
It is Will, however, who is the face of the family. Heir to a
political dynasty, charming, handsome, and able to say and do just
the right thing, his candidacy for governor, all but certain to
succeed, is shattered by Sydney’s tragic diagnosis.

While the hospital, and the treatment that Sydney is receiving, is
the best, it may not be enough. Will surmises that something about
Briarwood is…different. While some patients succumb to the
inevitable, others appear to be snatched from the jaws of death at
the last moment, even becoming better than they were before they
fell ill. Will notices that there is an enigmatic figure who always
seems to be at the periphery of these patients, an elegant,
distantly sympathetic man named Salk who presents himself as a
hospital counselor but who is something more --- and something very
different.

Will finds that Salk is spending an increasing amount of time at
the hospital with Joanna, huddled with her and whispering, and that
Joanna simultaneously becomes even more and more withdrawn.
Will’s wanderings through the medical complex, meanwhile,
take him off the charted hallways to places that are so quietly
chilling and strange that he is afraid he’s losing his mind
--- and Salk is always quietly hovering on the periphery.

Then, everything changes. Sydney goes into spontaneous remission,
recovering almost overnight. Will resumes his campaign and
seemingly invincible fast-track path to the governor’s
office. And Joanna? She is as she was before Sydney’s
illness, yet there is something different about her. As Will soon
learns, she is disappearing for hours at a time, not only during
the day but also at night, while he is asleep and otherwise
unsuspecting. Will immediately suspects that Salk is the reason for
his strange behavior. Yet even Will has no idea what is truly going
on, or what he will ultimately do to save his family from what is
happening.

Sokoloff is simply amazing. Her descriptions of the poor souls who
have fallen victim to the ravages of illness are truly empathetic,
and almost as chilling in their unvarnished descriptions as
Will’s journeys into the nether regions of the medical
center. She infuses a nightmarish quality to those hallways down
which most are never meant to travel, one that is borne, almost
certainly, from the chrome and silver Gothic design that seems to
have seized most new medical facilities --- a design that
apparently is supposed to comfort while radiating efficiency yet
ultimately creating an atmosphere akin to that of a cold new
world.

And the conclusion of THE PRICE? Even if you think you see it
coming --- and you may be wrong --- you will feel it, and remember
it, long after you read Sokoloff’s closing words.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 19, 2011

The Price
by Alexandra Sokoloff

  • Publication Date: February 19, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 0312357516
  • ISBN-13: 9780312357511