Saigon Dark by Elka Ray

Saigon Dark Saigon Dark by Elka Ray

 

Saigon Dark marks the second book I have read by Elka Ray.  I requested and received a digital copy compliments of Crime Wave Press in exchange for an honest review.

Of the two books I much prefer Saigon Dark as Ms. Ray’s talent shines through on every page—it is a well-crafted ferris wheel ride of a read. I devoured the book without hardly ever putting it down.

It is dark and compelling—I was certainly at times hard pressed to feel empathy with the main character, Lily—but I nevertheless hoped she would succeed—even if the woman was completely unable to simply tell the truth. Saigon Dark is a testament to Ms. Ray’s strength as a writer.

Instead, I took inspiration from the wisdoms that Ms. Ray portrayed through her characters—the wisdom that keeping secrets leads to a life filled with deception and paranoia. It builds a secret inner monologue in your brain which if left unchecked completely drives your entire life.

It is like drinking a poison that ensures that your focus is always trapped listening to a paranoid deceptive demon constantly whispering in your ear advising a continued diet of lies, deception, vigilance, paranoia, fear, stress, and anxiety—to succeed at all costs—if you are to protect what you hold dear. In Lily and in Saigon Dark, Ms. Ray creates a dark closed-in world that precisely validates her wisdoms, writing that results in a well constructed novel that is as compelling as it is claustrophobic.

Family (she claims) is the most important thing in Lily’s life and she would do anything to protect it—while reading I would often wonder which was more important to Lily—her family or getting caught.

The unintended consequence of this type of choice— is that in Lily’s desperation to keep her family whole and her secrets secret she gets trapped—often only noticing in retrospect that she had been so caught up listening to mind demons that she was never really there, never really enjoyed those people and moments that she claimed to hold most dear.

Instead, Lily spent the vast majority of her life constantly obsessing over her deceptions, her secrets, and past betrayals. She got so caught up in fears about losing her family that she often completely missed out on the very “happiness” that she was so desperate to protect.

The beginning of this dark tale starts with Lily relating a recurring nightmare which starts as a happy love filled ferris wheel ride and ends in betrayal as she is pushed out of her carriage at the very top of the ride, Ms. Ray utilizes this nightmare as a metaphor for Lily’s life.

We meet Lily at a moment when she is still reeling from being pitched from the top of her metaphoric ferris wheel—abandoned by her first husband, living as a single mother in Saigon, with two small children to raise on her own. She is still reeling from these betrayals and when her self adsorption results in her young daughter’s “accidental” death, Lily hits her nadir and it is in those depths that Lily makes some truly questionable decisions.

Lily’s unfathomable decisions represent a morally ethical quagmire and she reels from Saigon to Thailand where she reinvents her life—once again. I loved how Ms. Ray chose to weave her tale— as readers we are simply dropped chapter by chapter into pivotal moments in Lily’s life—like carriage ride stops on a loading ferris wheel we spend time looking at the view and listening to the corrosive poison of Lily’s current mind demons.

Each moment where Lily seems to have it all —a successful career, a family, a husband, wonderful children—she gets shoved from the top of that metaphoric ferris wheel again. By the end of the book Lily is completely self centered completely adsorbed into her own mind —it is an increasingly claustrophobic world and read.

Once again we see Lily reeling but recovering after another push from the top but with an unexpected ally this go round. A tiny ray of hope to cling to…that she can rise back up.

I think the wisdom is to pick a different amusement park ride instead of constantly expecting different results from the SAME RIDE. Samskara. Villanelle. Insanity. All circular rides.

I suppose Ms. Ray had to end the ride somewhere but I would have happily taken another couple of rounds on this particular ferris wheel. I look forward to reading more of Elka Ray.

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Hi! I'm Debbie. Here at Categorically Well-Read I give an extra layer to the reading life. Learn more about me, check out my current category of books, submit your own suggestion, or check out my latest post.