“I didn’t know it then, but it was too late—I had internalized my father, introjected him, buried him deep in my unconscious. No matter how far I ran, I carried him with me wherever I went. I was pursued by an infernal, relentless chorus of furies, all with his voice—shrieking that I was worthless, shameful, a failure.”

In the course of explaining his own backstory in Part 1, Chapter 3, Theo notes that he worked hard in order to enroll in college and escape his abusive family. As this quote shows, however, Theo quickly realizes that trauma cannot be physically outrun. He struggles to socialize and to succeed academically, soon finding himself unable to get out of bed. It was, he concludes too late for him to develop the emotional tools necessary to flourish as an adult. Though he has left his family home and his father far behind him, he has nevertheless internalized him, giving subconscious voice to his father’s cruel judgments. Referencing the Furies of Greek mythology, who harass those they deem guilty with curses and abuse, Theo feels unable to escape the long shadows cast by his past abuse, as his sense of self was shaped by that very abuse. This quote suggests that an individual whose childhood was marked by trauma will carry that trauma inside them for years, subconsciously burying it, but never casting it off entirely.

“No.” I suddenly felt irritated. “What’s happening with Kathy has nothing to do with my childhood.”  


“Oh, really?” Ruth sounded disbelieving. “Trying to please someone unpredictable, someone emotionally unavailable, uncaring, unkind—trying to keep them happy, win their love—is this not an old story, Theo? A familiar story?”  


I clenched my fist and didn’t speak.”

This quote from Part 2, Chapter 9 underscores the difficulty of overcoming childhood trauma and breaking with the cycles of the past. Theo believes that he has overcome his childhood abuse, and he regards his marriage to Kathy as a sign that he has left that unhappy past behind him. However, his psychotherapist, Ruth, pushes him to recognize how his present actions align with familiar patterns that he has shown in the past, particularly his desperate attempts to earn the love of his abusive parents. In his relationship with Kathy, then, Theo has replicated that past dynamic by seeking love from an emotionally unavailable partner who is unable to return his love. Theo is at first irritated by Ruth’s suggestion, and his characterization of Kathy as uncaring and unkind, though he slowly comes to acknowledge the Truth of Ruth’s analysis.  

“This was the house where Alicia had been born. It was where she spent the first eighteen years of her life. Within these walls her personality had been formed: the roots of her adult life, all causes and subsequent choices, were buried here. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp why the answers to the present lie in the past.”

This quote, from Part 2, Chapter 15, reflects upon the factors that constitute an individual’s identity and determine their fate. Theo travels to Alicia’s childhood home in Cambridge because he believes that an incident in her childhood must explain her shocking murder of her husband. As he takes in the house, a crumbling and vine-strewn Victorian building, his language emphasizes the impact of this early childhood environment on the adult Alicia became. She was, he notes, “born” in this house, and the first eighteen years of her life were shaped by it. Theo, whose own abusive childhood left a deep impact on his later life, looks at the overgrown house and imagines that the roots of her adult life begin in that house. His firm belief that a person’s childhood shapes the subsequent choices and events of their adult life helps him to solve the mystery of Alicia’s murder of Gabriel, which was indeed triggered by the uncovering of a traumatic childhood memory.