Devotion by Madeline Stevens
Ella is young, broke, and trying to make it in New York City. Originally from a small town in Oregon, she finds herself out of her element when she is hired by a wealthy family as a nanny for their baby, William.
Lonnie, William’s mother, is a writer and is 26 – the same age as Ella. James is her successful and handsome husband and on the surface they appear to have the perfect life.
Lonnie crosses all the boundaries of the employer/employee relationship and the two become friends. Ella is captivated by Lonnie, her talent, old family wealth, and the social circles she moves in. What starts as a fascination, slowly moves into an obsession as Ella meticulously documents Lonnie’s possessions, writings, and relationships – ultimately becoming so enmeshed that it may be impossible to remove herself without serious consequences.
I’ve seen this book billed as a thriller and for me, it was a slow burn. Told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator, I could not tell where the book was headed. I wasn’t trying to anticipate the twist in the traditional way that thrillers like to hook the reader.
I wanted to know what happened next and that is what made this a page turner for me.
An unreliable narrator written well is difficult to do and Madeline Stevens did this brilliantly. All the characters were well developed and while each had questionable motives, they were all likable at some point in the book. For me, that is usually the downfall of a book like this – I end up hating everyone and rooting for no one. But by the end of Devotion, I was still pulling for one character which is a sign of a good plot in my opinion.
So while I wouldn’t call this a heart pounding summer thriller, it’s a smoldering story that will keep you guessing to the end. I read this debut novel in less than 24 hours and I am looking forward to the author’s next book!
If you enjoy books like The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Ladder to The Sky, or The End of The Affair, you will enjoy Devotion. Look for it in your bookstore on August 13th.