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Zoje Stage’s first two novels, BABY TEETH and WONDERLAND, pretty much could be categorized as pure horror. I am a huge fan of the genre, and she has quickly become one of its best new voices. This is what made my experience with GETAWAY so much fun; while there are horrific moments, this is a psychological thriller of the highest order. It’s a story that will get under your skin and keep you feeling uneasy right through to the dramatic ending.

The prologue belongs to Imogen and details the most traumatic moment of her life when she witnessed a shooting at a synagogue. This unthinkable experience has changed and shaped her life in many ways. She has turned her angst into a writing career and has been able to find some catharsis with it. To continue her personal and spiritual regrowth, Imogen agrees to join her sister Beck and their best friend Tilda for a ladies-only trip deep into the Grand Canyon --- the type of excursion that Imogen and Beck used to go on with their parents when they were younger.

"...a psychological thriller of the highest order. It’s a story that will get under your skin and keep you feeling uneasy right through to the dramatic ending."

The three women could not be more different. Beck is a doctor who has a partner at home; they are expecting their first child. Tilda was a child star, having appeared on an “American Idol”-type show, and she is embarking on writing the story of that near-famous experience. They prepare for this adventure for months, with Beck pulling the largest part of the planning load. The trip is also an attempt to rekindle their once-tight friendship with Tilda, who Imogen knows helped her fill a critical void and was instrumental in getting her through high school.

Beck holds the trio to a lot of small rituals, one of which includes leaving their cell phones in her vehicle as they are useless out in the wilds of the Grand Canyon. Their trek will take them through some dangerous and challenging parts of the Canyon, as well as many majestic locales. Still, there is obvious tension, especially between Imogen and Tilda. Imogen resents that her career as a serious writer has paled in comparison to the success of Tilda’s own biographical release.

The trip is not without its issues as they find their camp and tents ransacked during one of their daytime treks with some key items and a lot of food taken. It won’t be long before the culprit is revealed…and boy, what an impact this character will have on the tale. At no point will you feel good about the situation and most likely will turn each page in fearful anticipation of what might happen next. I will not spoil the fun in this review, but I will say that Imogen will step up and make a bold choice that will take the book to an entirely different level.

GETAWAY is not for the squeamish, and it turns out that Zoje Stage has been planning the book for a long time. In the Acknowledgements, she recalls a trip to the Grand Canyon with her family when she was young. At one point a strange backpacker came upon them. He just kept on walking, but Stage always wondered to herself: What would have happened if he had stopped at our camp and not left? Thankfully, we now have a fictional response to her long-burning question, and it makes for an unforgettable reading experience.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on August 27, 2021

by Zoje Stage