When one morning Shay Miller observes a woman committing suicide in the New York underground, her life, too, crumbles and falls. The shock sits so deep that she in not able to enter any underground station anymore. She starts to investigate about the woman and soon finds out her name, Amanda, and thus comes across some of her friends: Cassandra and Jane Moore, two sisters her own age who are everything Shay is not: They have a successful PR agency, know how to dress and obviously know the right places and the right people in town. Just as Shay is fascinated by them, they seem to feel pity for her and help her to find a new place to stay when she needs to move out, they help her to get a new style and also can connect her to finally find a better job. All seems to be perfect in Shay’s new life, yet some things are completely wrong and it does not take too long for her to realise that all that glitters isn’t gold, but fake and also highly dangerous.
I was already fascinated by “The Wife Between Us” which convinced me due to the very clever construction of the story. In “You Are Not Alone”, we also get the story narrated from different points of view and also different points in time which cleverly supports suspense since you already get facts which do not make too much sense until you learn the story behind them. As you are always a bit ahead of Shay, you sympathise with her and, of course, you hope that in the end, all will turn out well even though you cannot be too sure of that.
The whole plot lives on the characters. Shay as well as Cassandra and Jane are interestingly drawn and totally contrasting which makes them equally appealing for the reader. Just a simply – yet, quite important aspect – that I totally adored was Shay’s obsession with numbers and statistics. The authors have perfectly integrated this fact into the story.
Apart from the entertaining factor, in my opinion, the novel also provides insight in the psychological mechanisms that operate within people who are a bit unsecure and rather sad since their life did not turn out the way they hoped. Shay is very clever and likeable, nevertheless, in all areas of her life she more or less failed: neither does she have a flat of her own, nor a permanent job or relationship. No wonder that she immediately falls for the shiny and glamorous Moore sisters who represent everything she also wishes for. This makes it quite easy for them to manipulate her – just as they managed to take advantage of others who were in critical situations, too.
A captivating suspense novel that I did not want to put down once I had started.
A virus has seriously affected human population. Even though men and women get infected equally, it is only deadly for the later with the consequence that the number of female citizens has drastically been diminished. Thus, in Green City, women are assigned several husbands and closely monitored to keep the number of children born as high as possible. This is the single task for them and there is no alternative to functioning as a kind of human breeder. But some women just don’t want to comply with the assigned role and a kind of secret underground community has been formed known as the Panah. To keep their group alive, the women offer a service which is not provided by the wives anymore: non-sexual companionship. Sabine is one of the women living underground, but when she collapses on the street after visiting a client, the whole community is threatened to be revealed.
Bina Shah, a Pakistani writer, columnist and blogger who has published several novels and short story collections has created quite an interesting feminist dystopian novel with “Before She Sleeps”. Since Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” has been talked about a lot in the last couple of months, it is quite natural to compare the two pieces of work since they belong to the same genre. In my opinion, Shah does not have to hide from the great Mrs Atwood.
What I found the strongest in the novel was the picture of the society highly affected by a drastically decreased number of women. On the one hand, they are worshipped since they are the only ones who can cater for an increase in population, on the other, they easily become the victims of rape and male outrage due to the non-fulfilled sexual needs. They are regarded not as equal human beings but in terms of their functionality and thus severely reduced in their significance as humans. Both, men and women, have no say when it comes to the choice of a partner. From a political point of view, this makes sense, but it is obvious that it doesn’t actually support social rest and satisfaction or content. What the new society lacks most seems to be compassion and emotion, this is only visible in the women living underground.
I also liked the protagonist Sabine. Her motivation for fleeing for her duty as a woman is well motivated and her family story comprehensibly portrayed. Also her state of mind and how she is betrayed by a man whom she trusted to a certain extent and the effect the abuse has on her psychologically seemed to me quite authentic and believable.
All in all, an important contribution to the ongoing discussion about women’s rights and the way they are treated by men.