When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Musser’s latest novel is an intriguing blend of imperfectly unique characters and a creative suspense-style storyline that communicates an outside-the-box message about humanity’s need for God’s grace. While it has several strengths, perhaps When I Close My Eyes‘ biggest strength is how the author humanizes the struggle many people have with depression. Josephine Bourdillon loves to write. For her, writing is more than a hobby, it is how she makes sense of life’s joys and sorrows. Holding onto God’s promises and putting her pain in story form is how she has survived her difficult life. Josephine has a happy existence overall – she has several close friends, a devoted husband, and two loving daughters, Paige and Hannah. Though her troubled older sister is a continual rain-cloud in her otherwise sunny life, she really can’t complain. When Josephine is suddenly shot in the head by a scapegoat named Henry Hughes, her family is horrified and the world wonders if her stories will die with her. Henry is pinned as the key suspect in the case as everyone tries to find out who tried to kill Mrs. Bourdillon, and her family tries to hold onto hope that sue will survive. To find out what happens to the Bourdillon and Hughes families, read the book!:) On the whole, this storyline is a very interesting idea that wasn’t fully carried out. For instance, Josephine and Paige have very well-done stories; the former’s is established with timely and meaningful flashbacks, and the latter has a clearly outlined personality and relatable thought processes. However, Paige’s story is a bit rushed, and the audience needed a bit more information about both her and her love interest as children. In spite of this, the dialogue between characters is exceptional and Henry is a refreshingly original antagonist. In comparison, Josephine’s story tends to be quite morbid at times. (spoiler) Although her flashbacks give ample reason for her struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, the reader is left to assume that this was just a natural tendency for her as a person, rather than a result of her difficult childhood. It is our opinion that the latter plot device needed to be more clearly emphasized for her story to be truly relatable. (spoiler) Lastly, the misdirecting plot twist towards the end of the story is an intriguing idea, but I must say I’m glad the novel ended the way it did for a number of reasons; however, the epilogue is unnecessary. Thus, this combination of strengths and weaknesses earns Musser an above average score in this section.

Character Development (3 points)

In contrast, the character development in this novel is better than that of many, but it still leaves some room for improvement. First, the author employs excellent development of Josephine’s through flashbacks and shows how she weaves pieces of herself into her novels as a way of coping with trauma. This is an excellent plot device that humanizes her character and demonstrates the author’s deep understanding of people’s response mechanisms. Furthermore, Musser’s subtle explanation of how Josephine deals with her past by trying to help others reconcile with theirs helps make this character believable. In addition, Paige is a great alternate lead, and minor characters like her boyfriend and Henry’s wife are above average. In comparison, it is hard to get to know Josephine’s husband as a character in the midst of the fast paced plot, so it is clear that he needed a bit more development or an even smaller role in the story. The same is true for Hannah, for though she is an interesting idea, her character never fully comes to fruition. Therefore, Musser earns just under a perfect score here.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Musser earns a full point in originality for writing a true contemporary novel that is not fully a suspense, romance, or thriller. Instead, it somehow contains aspects from all three of these genres in a very surprising way. While this novel is not great, it is good, and there are many recent novels of which we cannot say the same. Likewise, we feel that this novel would make a great Christian drama/biopic film if the screenwriter took a little time to develop the minor characters further and cemented Josephine’s life as the main focus.

Wish List Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

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