Picture the scene, if you will, of a book reviewer hooked up to a dialysis machine for three hours reading a book with a modicum of privacy (a curtain just about pulled over–not all the way, because the nurses like to see their patients to make sure nothing is going wrong. Imagine said reviewer reading a book that grows more intense with every passing chapter; so intense, in fact, that my blood pressure readings and heart rate rise by such an extent, the machine sets off an alarm that has the nurses come check in on you. Now imagine, if you will, that the reviewer is me, and the aforementioned book is Stalker Stalked, by New York City writer Lee Matthew Goldberg.
I could leave my review at that and go on my merry way and read something a little more soothing, but I have a job to do. And I’ll start by saying I used to watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills with my mother when she was glued to the show on the evenings I visited. (She was also a big fan of Alaska: The Last Frontier, but I confess a fondness for the families in this particular show.) Eventually she moved on to other shows and that was that. Unlike the main character of Goldberg’s compelling psychological thriller, Lexi Mazur (now there’s a name destined for reality television), my mother was able to distinguish what was real and what wasn’t.
Lexi is a mess, poor woman. She pops pills to cope with the emptiness of her life, mixing them with copious amounts of alcohol, while at the same time barely holding down a job as a rep for a pharmaceutical company. Her love life is one tragic break-up after another, and the only solace she has, apart from her drugs of choice and her cat Sammi, are her reality TV shows. Lately she’s addicted to a new show called Socialites, spearheaded by a Vanderpump wannabe Magnolia Artois, who’s as dislikeable person in real life as she appears on her show. But that doesn’t put Lexi off: she wants to be in Magnolia’s life to such an extent that she uses all her dubious skills to finagle a meeting in a chic restaurant where the show is filming. Things get very messy from then on.
Another thing we need to know about Lexi is that because of a highly dysfunctional and abusive relationship with her mother, she is a deeply traumatised woman. Her previous relationships ended, badly, when her boyfriends couldn’t put up with her incessant stalking, whether following them to work or checking their emails or texts. Lexi of course would deny everything (addicts rarely face the truth about themselves until a metaphorical gun is pointed to their heads), leading to a break-up and a sustained period of substance misuse. Her one friend Pria, who harbours a secret crush on Lexi, is powerless to protect her from her worst tendencies. And to make matters even worse, Lexi appears to be the victim of a stalker herself. There are any number of suspects: her ex-boyfriends; Magnolia; or even the friendly detective who takes up her case. I did say things get messy, right?
I will admit to being sympathetic towards Lexi, despite her being not a very nice or good person. Addiction takes on many forms and can affect each addict differently. Being a former abuser of alcohol (I’m sober over fourteen years now), I can relate to the destructive behaviour addictive patterns can wreak upon the lives of the addict and those who care for them. Although even on my worst days, I wouldn’t dream of doing a fifth of the things Lexi gets up to, the addicted brain can lead us down some very dark paths. I got out before things got so bad I lost everything. I think this is why reading Stalker Stalked affected me the way it did. Readers who don’t know too much about addiction, only what they see on TV, etc., may find some of the situations Lexi creates far-fetched or contrived, but addiction can and does cause a lot of situations the unaddicted would find ridiculous.
Lee Matthew Goldberg has written a fast and furious novel, one I read with one hand over my mouth, gasping for breath, and hoping against hope that Lexi would turn out okay. She may yet still, despite how Goldberg ends Stalker Stalked. It hit home to me, but then addicts know one another, and I always wish them well, no matter the circumstances.