A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
The Washington Post・The New Yorker ・Slate・CrimeReads・Good Housekeeping・Amazon Book Review
A NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE
A suspenseful new psychological thriller from the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlisted and Dublin Literary Award shortlisted author of Remote Sympathy, Catherine Chidgey.
Like every other girl in her class, twelve-year-old Justine is drawn to her glamorous, charismatic new teacher and longs to be her pet. However, when a thief begins to target the school, Justine’s sense that something isn’t quite right grows ever stronger. With each twist of the plot, this gripping story of deception and the corrosive power of guilt takes a yet darker turn. Justine must decide where her loyalties lie.
Set in New Zealand in the 1980s and probing themes of racism, misogyny and the oppressive reaches of Catholicism, Pet will take a rightful place next to other classic portraits of childhood betrayal and psychological suspense: Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping among them.
“Refreshing, compelling and surprising.”—Ann Morgan, author of Beside Myself and Reading the World
New Zealander Chidgey (Remote Sympathy) examines the consequences of grief in her layered and suspenseful latest. In 2014, Justine visits her father, Neil, who has dementia, at an Auckland nursing home. The nurse caring for him bears a striking resemblance to Mrs. Price, Justine's former schoolteacher. This coincidence precipitates a narrative leap to 1984, where most of the novel takes place. Twelve-year-old Justine, who has epilepsy, is in her final year at a Catholic primary school in Wellington. She's recently lost her mother to cancer and lives alone with her alcohol-dependent father. At school, Justine's classmates vie for the attention of the charismatic and capricious Mrs. Price, though she becomes one of the teacher's pets. Tensions mount after Mrs. Price first begins an affair with Neil, which Justine doesn't appreciate, and then harnesses the students' xenophobia to scapegoat Justine's friend Amy Huang, who is of Chinese descent, for a series of thefts at the school. As Justine navigates the dark corners of adult authority, the plot accelerates toward a surprising and tragic denouement involving Mrs. Price, Amy, and Justine. Chidgey satisfies and horrifies in equal measure.