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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Natasha's Prison: Healing From Your Prison I Never Knew I Was In by Stefan Stevens portrays the rise and cataclysmic crash of a relationship, told from the point of view of the narrator named Harry. How Harry and Natasha originally connect is unclear, but when Harry picks Natasha up from the airport he assures his friends he knows what she looks like from photographs. The romantic relationship happens very soon after her arrival. They live in East Asia and Harry, who speaks in the first person and narrates from what resembles journal entries, is clearly head-over-heels for his fiancée. Natasha is conveyed as the same, at first, but a way into the book we are told she is not. Natasha is a sexually repressed bisexual woman in a family where same-sex relationships are unacceptable, and Harry is a broken man when Natasha decides she is going to live her life on her own terms.
I really did not see the surprising twist that Stefan Stevens provides within Natasha's Prison and the layer of doubt it places on Harry by the reader is one of the best shifts to proving that the narrator is unreliable. Harry is oblivious to his controlling, smothering selfishness and it is surreal when Stevens shines a light on it in part two, a feat he accomplishes by bathing a reader in the glow of Harry's “love” in part one. Part two magnifies Harry's attempts to isolate Natasha, ever-present when she gets her nails done or wants Harry-free time. His love is the type that will threaten to out the woman he loves to her family to shame her into staying with him when she is clearly happy and in love with another woman. He is open about how shocking it is that Natasha visits him in the hospital holding hands with her new partner and cannot recognize that she has no obligation to visit or speak to him ever again. Nor should she. Harry is a person with nothing to lose and that is why he is so dangerous. He has every right to be heartbroken over Natasha using him as the proverbial beard, but where Stevens' skill as a writer is most visible is in making us feel like Harry might be right—until it is so wrong that it is downright scary. Excellent storytelling!