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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
It takes a really good writer to keep this reviewer interested in a 400-plus page novel. The fact that Borrowed Memories by J.R. Torbic is a psychological thriller helps. But sometimes those have such shallow characterization that as much as they keep you flipping pages to see what happens, they are quickly forgotten once you’ve finished reading. Such is not the case with Borrowed Memories. Not only are the intricacies of the psychology explored frightening, but they are also fascinating, in-depth studies of what makes people who they are, thanks to Torbic’s ability to create realistic characters. By the end of the book, we feel we really know and understand the characters involved and their motivations for doing what they did. We even understand how the perpetrator at the center of the murders and rapes evolved into the evil-doer he is. And boy is he nasty!
When Scott Pennell is offered a top job with a computer technology company in the town his family left 20 years earlier, he’s puzzled by the cool, almost hateful reception he receives from several people he meets, including his beautiful co-worker, Macey, who reminds him of someone he can’t quite remember. But Macey remembers him, as does her best girlfriend, Becca, and what they remember isn’t good. Torbic reveals the reasons for the mysterious and unfriendly reception at a pace calculated to keep readers reading, but along the way, he touches on social issues like mysogynism in the work place, racial prejudice and child sexual abuse. He explores the dangers of religious rigidity along with the abuse of religious power. As Scott and Macey fight their growing romantic feelings, Macey helps Scott unravel a past he can’t remember, while Scott helps Macey trust men again. But why doesn’t she trust them? What happened to her? And alongside her own secrets, what is the secret behind her sister’s horrible murder?
Some fans of psychological thrillers may find the pace of Borrowed Memories too slow for them if all they want out of a thriller is the chills. But if they like learning what’s inside people’s heads and understanding how strongly our upbringing affects our adult thinking and actions, then they will enjoy this variation on the genre. Readers come away feeling they’ve been involved in real people’s lives and weathered both the good and bad with them. That said, when it’s all over we breathe a sigh of relief that this thriller was, after all, only fiction. But we don’t close the book and forget about it. There’s that lingering feeling that Borrowed Memories could be too close to the truth of many people’s lives.