2020 Reading List: Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

I joined a new book club! This one is with a group of fellow moms. Clearly becoming new parents during a pandemic has led to some of us needing some literary escape.

The first book we chose was Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott. I went off on a tangent with the plot of this book, so be warned – there are spoilers.

In this book, Kit is a scientist working at a lab and trying to get chosen for a PMDD study. She used to have a friend in high school with whom she has cut ties, apparently. In high school that friend, Diane, had told her a secret. The secret was that she killed her own dad. Kit was the only one she told and it weighed heavily on her all these years. Now she is working for her idol and with a very smart group of people in the lab. She is flirty with one of the guys. Then suddenly, Dr. Severin announces that she is bringing on Diane Fleming into the group to work with them. The group already knows she is going to take one of the coveted spots on the study so they are all vying for the other spot. During a stressful night, Kit goes out with the guy she is flirty with. She ends up hooking up with him. What she doesn’t know is one of the other guys in the group was at the bar and saw them together so he can blackmail her later. Kit feels terrible about the hookup and wants to talk to Alex about it, so she goes to the lab on a weekend and he is there. She tries to talk to him, but he is working. She notices he is working with faulty equipment. The equipment explodes and by chance, glass cuts his artery in his neck and he dies. Apparently Kit was glued to the floor or something, and she could do nothing to help. She was in shock watching him die. Diane walks in and tells her not to call the police. She helps Kit clean everything up and they attempt to make it look like they weren’t there, like the accident it truly was. Although Diane believes Kit did kill him. Or she’s a little mentally ill and knows Kit didn’t kill him but is getting confused with her own memories of killing her father. Regardless, they walk out, trying to hide the cleaned up evidence, but they are seen and stopped by a fellow lab worker. Diane is worried he’ll be suspicious and know. Kit is freaking out the whole time. Kit comes back to the lab later and runs into Alex’s fiance, which she didn’t know Alex had a fiance. The fiance thinks something is up because she can’t reach Alex. It turns out later that the co-worker had taken Alex’s body and stashed it in the ceiling of his office at the lab and cleaned everything up. So when Alex doesn’t turn up for work the next day and the fiance can’t find him, things escalate and investigators get involved. Kit is terrified that someone will rat on her. I’ve already given away more than enough, so I’ll end it here. Let’s just say there is more than one death in this book. But you’ll have to read it to find out.

First of all, I’m not sure why it was called “Give Me Your Hand.” As someone who reads a lot of murder mysteries, one of the things I like is when the title is clear enough about the plot that it jogs your memory a little about what the book is about. Give Me Your Hand just makes this book forgettable. It says nothing about the book, at least that I can remember. I started reading another book after this one and promptly forgot what this book was about. I had to Google it again to get started writing here.

Second, I’m not sure why there was so much emphasis on the fact that this was a PMDD study that the scientists were going after. Unless it was a tenuous connection to the fact that the women in the group were very few and they were vying for the spots and we were supposed to wonder if they would get the spots because they were women or because of their hard work. Maybe some thinly veiled feminist allusion in there somewhere.

Also, what I didn’t like about this book was the fact that it tried to make it seem like Diane and Kit were best friends in high school, that they told each other everything, all their secrets. But the vibe I got from actually reading the book was that they were those friends sort of like you’d meet at a summer camp. You feel really close to them for a short time because you’re both going through something together, and then the week ends and you go your separate ways. I didn’t get the feeling that Diane and Kit were very good friends at all. Lab partners, sure. Rivals for Valedictorian, absolutely. But not really friends. They certainly didn’t seem like friends when Diane showed up years later at the same lab Kit works at.

Beyond that I thought the book was pretty good. It definitely picked up about halfway through. The first half was clearly setting up the whole laboratory scene and the background of Kit and Diane. Sometimes when authors hide important details on purpose, it only makes you want to find out more, but in this case, I felt like Abbott was hiding exactly what happened with Diane’s dad until too late and it actually made me lose interest. The most interesting part was when Alex died. I felt like the narration from Kit picked up the pace and pulled me into her frantic, panicky thoughts about what was going to happen. From then on, I couldn’t put the book down.

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