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The Silence in Her Eyes


The Silence in Her Eyes

Armando Lucas Correa, whose historical novels include THE NIGHT TRAVELER and THE GERMAN GIRL, tries his hand at the thriller genre with THE SILENCE IN HER EYES. This atmospheric, keenly observed work of psychological suspense features a young woman with a rare neurological disorder.

When Leah Anderson was eight, a freak accident left her with akinetopsia, which effectively renders its host blind, but only so far as movement is concerned. Now, two decades later, Leah can see --- technically --- but her vision reads more like snapshots. If you were to grab a cup of coffee with her, she could see you sitting at the table, but as soon as you lifted your mug to your lips, you’d disappear until the next moment you were still.

"The explosive, shocking twist in the novel’s final chapter will have you flipping back to reread passages to admire Correa’s craft."

It’s an unusual way of seeing, much more akin to an Instagram feed than a movie reel, but it has its bonuses. First, everyone ignores the “blind” girl, assuming that she is either limited in her other senses or mentally incompetent. Second, Leah’s hearing and smell have been heightened since she lost the majority of her sight. This allows her to “see” far more than anyone else she knows, right down to whether or not you brushed your teeth that morning or when you last bathed your dog.

When we meet Leah, her mother has just died, leaving her alone in their coveted New York City apartment. She is mostly independent, but an old family friend acts as her caretaker. Antonia cleans her apartment, ensures that she attends her weekly sessions with an experimental doctor, and encourages her to start over rather than obsessing about her blindness as her mother did for so long. Like Antonia, all of Leah’s friends are older, mostly widows holding tight to their apartments until they’re able to join their deceased husbands.

At home, Leah is accustomed to the sounds of her neighbors --- the quarrels between spouses and the sneaky smoke breaks of her super, Connor. But one night she hears something different: the whimpering cries of her new neighbor, Alice, a mysterious woman no one seems to know. Alice then receives a call that sounds vaguely threatening, giving weight to the rumors that she is involved in a heated divorce.

Consumed by curiosity, Leah falls asleep, only to wake up with the intense, gripping knowledge that there is an intruder in her room. She remains motionless until the individual departs, leaving behind only the scent of bergamot and something deeply familiar to her, but it's a fragrance she cannot quite place. A bit of a loner with an active imagination, Leah becomes certain of one thing: the uninvited guest had to have been Alice’s estranged husband, and he must have entered the wrong apartment looking to harm his wife. By morning, she is convinced that Alice is in danger and that she alone can help, using her peculiar sense of smell and hearing to keep an eye on the comings and goings of the apartment.

When Leah finally meets Alice, they become fast friends. Alice confides in Leah that her husband, a lawyer, is litigious and violent, and their divorce is going nowhere fast. Alice’s attachment to Leah is abrupt and jarring. This would be a red flag to most young people, but not to friendless Leah, who finds her proximity to this glamorous, romantic woman intoxicating.

But as Leah becomes swept up in Alice’s mysterious, potentially violent divorce, her own grasp on reality starts to slip. Her senses, always fine-tuned and sharp, are clouded by her sudden leap into crowds and new places. Her panic over the nighttime intrusions of Alice’s husband, as well as her newfound independence, all combine to make the steady, even facts of her life murky. At times, Leah feels like her vision --- her grasp of movement --- is returning. But the world of movement and action is dangerous and confusing, and she is quickly realizing that the world isn’t the way she imagined it to be. As Alice’s husband becomes increasingly threatening, and more of Leah’s life starts to crumble around her, her obsession turns to tunnel vision, and her eyes can no longer be trusted.

It’s equal parts exhilarating and nerve-wracking when a favorite author pivots to a new genre. But when I learned that Armando Lucas Correa had written a thriller, I knew I had to read it. He brings his trademark lyricism and cadence to THE SILENCE IN HER EYES, but tonally, it is miles away from his works of historical fiction. This totally immersive, atmospheric thriller is led by an unreliable narrator, much like THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Correa takes the Rear Window premise that has become so popular in thriller fiction and makes it entirely his own, relying on a surreal, gripping tone to cast away any comparisons and let his protagonist and mystery stand on their own.

While there are some scenes that are much weaker than others --- Correa has a tendency in this genre to meander and repeat --- the overall effect is one of good old-fashioned thriller meets heady surrealism. The explosive, shocking twist in the novel’s final chapter will have you flipping back to reread passages to admire Correa’s craft.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on January 19, 2024

The Silence in Her Eyes
by Armando Lucas Correa