Lisa Unger






Bantam, Random House Australia, 2008
Reviewed by Kerrie Smith

BLACK OUT begins very provocatively:
Today something interesting happened. I died.

Annie Powers named her daughter Victory, a symbol of a past she thought she had conquered and left behind. In another life, in a very dysfunctional family where her mother fell in love with a murderer and rapist on death row, Annie was part of traumatic events she has tried hard to forget. But now her past is catching up with her. A man she thought was dead, the father of her child, has come back for her, and Annie can no longer tell whether her memories are true or delusions.

There can be no doubt to the reader that Annie Powers has a psychotic problem, a dissociative disorder. At times she sees her former persona as a separate person, someone she hates and has tried to destroy. By the time of her death mentioned in the opening lines, she is no longer sure of who she can trust.

Lisa Unger explores Annie's vulnerability as she tries to leave her former life behind. She paints a disturbing picture of Annie's mind as those around her, even those she is closest to, try to persuade her that what she knows has happened hasn't.

The reader may find Unger's technique of slotting in episodes from different time frames difficult to cope with. There are three major slices of time: the present, the recent past, and the deep past; and the book plunges from one to the other with little or no warning, and only contextual clues.

This was an extraordinary book: very provocative in its exploration of how a person with a dissociative disorder may see the world. Looking at it as a thriller, I did feel that some of the events stretched the bounds of credibility.

You can read quite a considerable part of the book online, in fact the Prologue and the first seven chapters. In my copy that is the first 42 pages. There is also a synopsis and a trailer to watch.

Lisa Unger has written 4 books:
   Beautiful Lies (2006)
   Sliver of Truth (2007)
   Black Out (2008)
   Die for You (2009)

May 2009 review originally posted on Murder and Mayhem


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