Book review - Antioch by Jessica Leonard
„Antioch“ by Jessica Leonard has had me frustrated in varying degrees for the past three days, in both good and not so good ways.
I’m a details nerd, and the writing left no doubt in my mind, that we are dealing with an unreliable narrator. And that’s a good thing. But I had solid fears at the beginning that we were also dealing with an unreliable storyline. Which was the plan.
The presentation of the MC is the cause of 90% of the concern and frustration I had with the book. Right at the beginning of the book, a garbled radio message is heard through the static, which the MC, Bess, infers is a message directly to her (though it does not address her specifically) which is just madness, of course. The MC has herself, an obsession with Amelia Eckhart, and knows the conspiracy theories which surround the final transmission of Amelia.
Those conspiracies allude that the last radio transmission was misheard, and Bess decides she has misheard her own radio transmissions and concocts “evidence” from those transmissions, and that evidence leads her on a wild goose chase through Antioch seeing connections in everything she wishes to see. Leonhard presents her argument without actually stating it, leading the reader to either come to the same conclusion as myself, or any other conclusion in the exact same method that the actual death of Amelia Eckhart inspired similar theories, each as unlikely as the next. Leonhard had adroitly shown that you will see what you want to see. You will believe what you want to believe.
It’s fascinating, of course.
Now. Let’s ignore all of that for a second, because it is just a theory, about what the whole story is actually about, and let’s address the writing.
Leonhard writes well, the story does flow, regardless of i’s nonsensical storyline. The voice here is not consistent. The characters are non-consistent in their attitudes and mannerisms. Characters that have never cussed throughout the book are constantly swearing at the end of the book. Things don’t bother the MC when they should – her house is wrecked, and her notebook pages stolen (her lifelong obsession) but never-mind let’s go to bed.
On the other side of the scale, “evidence” given to her which documents somebodies possible involvement in serial killings is taken as straight-up fact – because it comes in a lovely book. So, I guess it must be true. And that’s the point here. The MC believes absolutely in a truth she clings to. No explanation of why she does so is given. Her belief that she can magically hear a dead or near-dead person giving her clues to the location of a girl being held by a serial killer is manifest and takes over her entire life. Nothing else is of importance. And it must be real. If she believes it, we must too? Umm…
And it is so full of holes that the reader themselves gets frustrated by the entire series of events. The house bangs and shakes and is pounded from outside by...? No idea, it is never really explained. And the mc ignores it. Oh well. So for me, I was looking at the book the entire time thinking – this makes no sense. The author has thrown events at the MC without seemingly acknowledging the “how” of how those things happened. None of it made sense. Gary turns up with a gun. Or attacks her. Or she spots him “just so”. All total circumstantial. There is absolutely no detective work involved here. Nothing that is factual proof. Nothing but circumstance.
And that’s the point.
The ending of the book is the authors attempt at stopping the theories dead in their tracks. The entire series of non-sensical beliefs and unlikely situations are nothing. They are as ghost-like as a character that doesn’t exist (ghost, or imagination – we will never know – just like Amelia).
So the entire point of the book is to illustrate that any belief system is non-sensical. Belief in God and the devil? It can be looked at in another light and the entire theory turned on its head. Whatever you want to believe, you will find evidence that supports your theory and ignore everything that doesn’t fit it.
Who hits Bess around the head at the end of the book? We will never know. That is the entire point. It is a fictional recreation of the Amelia Eckhart death.
So if you read the reviews of this book, you get a series of people that liked the thrilling aspect of the book. Or they liked the situations the MC found herself in. Or they didn’t understand the book at all. The characters weren’t true to themselves? The situations were never explained? What the hell was the ending?
And that perfectly represents the actual core theme here – what actually did happen to Amelia Eckhart.
And as succinctly as it is possible to say, Jessica Leonard tells you in simple truth at the end. One sentence to rip aside all of the bullshit that you want desperately to believe.
People that don’t understand the story here don’t understand that the actual story was the last line of the book. And everything else that came before it was just an attempt to illustrate chasing a rabbit down a rabbit hole that may or may not exist.
So, whilst I think I got the point of the story, the journey here was frustrating, uncomfortable, and at times annoying.
I’m upgrading a frustrated 3 star to a four-star because this story was actually not the actual story at all. And whilst it is clever and achieved its goal with THIS reader, I think I’m pretty much on my own. So – Jessica - 🤜🤛 this was brilliant, but I think you are too clever for the likes of myself and the rest of us idiots on the planet. That I got this was because I overthink stuff.
I look forward to reading more from Mrs Leonard, and hope I live up to her continued expectations of me.(less)