Rating: 5 out of 5
Tananarive Due’s The Between is a really intriguing story. Hilton James discovered his Nana dead on the kitchen floor. He ran down the road to find someone, but when they return she’s alive and making dinner. She dismisses it as a faint, but he knows better. Some time later, he goes swimming and gets caught by an undertow. Nana saves him, and she drowns. After that he was raised by other relatives. Now he’s heading up a drug rehab center, and he’s married to Dede, who is the first Black circuit court judge in the county. They have two kids, Kaya and Jamil. Things just got stressful for the family–someone sent a letter to Dede that threatened her family and was full of racial hatred. The stress seems to be getting to Hilton: his nightmares have returned. Sometimes he experiences things only to have them happen over again (for the first time?), or happen differently than he remembers. He’s getting no rest and falling asleep on the job. His memories become unreliable. His nightmares give him a clue as to the identity of the anonymous stalker (who continues to send letters), but the stress of everything is tearing apart his relationships. And he almost dies, again.
This is a slow-burn story, with Hilton coming slowly unglued as the tale goes on. He becomes obsessed with protecting his family: buying a gun, getting a guard dog, staying up at night watching through the windows, refusing to let his family leave the house. Meanwhile, his nightmares are eating away at him. They seem to indicate that he shouldn’t be alive. His children shouldn’t be alive. Someone or something is trying to set that right, and they’ve found a way to influence someone who’s willing to do the work for them.
Hilton and Dede’s marriage already had problems. Both of them are responsible for that. Dede seems to take offense very easily, while Hilton often doesn’t want to put the effort in to be loving to her when she needs him. They’re both smart, caring people–they’re just a little off-kilter with each other. It’s nice to see an example of how two people can very much love each other yet still have serious marital trouble.
This is a wonderful story, leaving you wondering for most of the book how much of his nightmares is real, and how much is just a dream?
Content note: sex, a tiny bit of animal harm.
How many times do you think you can die?