This review and others are posted at Inspiring Insomnia.
Fault Line is a little book (240 pages) about a big, awful subject: rape. It unflinchingly shows the devastating effects of rape, both on the victim and the victim’s loved ones. In this case, the story is complicated by the fact that Ani, the victim, was intoxicated at a party and loudly announced that she was going to have sex with several guys. After heading upstairs with them, Ani wakes up the next morning with no memory of what happened. It is clear that some sort of sexual activity occurred, but of course, the guys involved claim it was consensual.
We’re left even more in the dark because the story is narrated not by Ani, but by her boyfriend, Ben. Ben is a pretty typical guy when he first gets involved with Ani, and his primary interest seems to be getting into Ani’s pants. Ani is his fantasy girl: gorgeous, playful, and raunchy in her speech. She almost seemed unreal, to be honest. I could have believed that Ani was merely a fantasy Ben had created.
Both Ben’s and Ani’s worlds were shattered by the events at the party. Ani retreats into a shell and lashes out at Ben. Ben is superhuman-ly supportive, and his actions become increasingly hard to believe. He initially responds in a way that seemed realistic and true to his character. He has an attitude that is a bit, “This is my woman. No one but I may touch her vagina.” Ben is enraged and out for blood. He also feels guilty that he wasn’t at the party to prevent it from happening. He is actually relieved when he learned that she might have been roofied, which is a disgusting response, but again, it was believable for his character. But as the story progressed, and as Ani continues to spiral downwards, Ben becomes some kind of rape trauma crusader. I just didn’t buy it. Would a guy who feels a sense of relief over his girlfriend’s possible poisoning (which is what “roofie-ing” is) really devote his life to supporting Ani, even when she treats Ben cruelly and as her actions become more and more unhinged? He has a seemingly infinite well of tolerance for Ani’s destructive behavior.
According to the back cover flap, the author is a rape counselor, and I have enormous respect for that work. It’s clear that she’s knowledgeable and compassionate. But at times, it felt like I was being walked through all of the potential emotional and psychological effects of rape of ANYONE, not necessarily Ani. Ben, at one point, even voiced my own frustrations while speaking to a rape counselor about Ani. He was asking for advice regarding Ani’s behavior, and no matter what Ben said, the counselor replied, “That could be one side effect of rape.”
I felt almost brutalized by the ending. Just when you think things can’t get any worse for Ani and Ben, the last couple of pages smack you in the face, throw you to the ground, and stomp all over you. I felt like I needed a shower after the last scene. So, does that mean that the author was effective? I’m leaning towards no for that. The story was already starting to get away from me before those last, horrific pages. I don’t think it was necessary; it was already abundantly clear how these events destroyed Ani.
If you’re wondering about the cover and whether it has some symbolic significance to rape, it doesn’t. Instead, it’s very much related to Ani’s particular story of being raped, and my first instinct was to call this choice of cover tasteless. But then again, the whole act of rape is tasteless and disgusting and awful, so perhaps the cover is fitting. I’ll settle for just calling it an odd creative choice.