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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Pages in the Wind is a psychological thriller novel written by Sally Saylor De Smet. Emily’s all-too-brief moment of calm as she drew the portrait of a young blond girl with waist-length hair was shattered by the impatient tones of the prison guard who was assigned to escort her up to the doctor’s office. Emily was still in shock over the fact that she was an inmate in the San Francisco County Jail on the charge that she had murdered her father. They said she had stabbed him repeatedly and that the two of them were found in the kitchen, but Emily couldn’t remember any of it. It had been two weeks now. Her brother hadn’t come to see her since she was imprisoned, and her mother had only called her once, speaking in impersonal and distant tones that chilled her. The fiance that she was told she had was somewhere in a boot camp training for his tour of duty in Vietnam. Added to that dismal reality was the constant reminder that she must neither cry nor show any signs of weakness. A nineteen-year-old innocent, she would be instant fodder for the more aggressive inmates if she displayed signs of weakness. Her mother had retained Dr. Daniel Lieberman to aid in her defense. He was a renowned forensic psychiatrist, and Emily thought his professional stature seemed at odds with the slight and rumpled figure she first beheld rummaging through papers in the drab, institutional green office where he would conduct their sessions. But he soon had her realizing that he was on her side, and his words, as he hypnotized her that first time, gave her a sorely-needed sense of tranquility and calm.
Who is Emily Quinn and how did she end up stabbing her much larger father to death? Sally Saylor De Smet’s psychological thriller novel, Pages in the Wind, follows the frightened and amnesiac young woman as she and her psychiatrist attempt to revive her life’s story through a sequence of hypnosis sessions. Emily’s tale takes place in the late fifties and sixties, which were a different time indeed when considering the parental right to discipline and exert total control over a child. That said, Emily’s early memories will leave the hardest hearts stunned and saddened as the young girl seeks again and again for love from her daddy and receives only physical abuse that becomes, at one point, a life-threatening assault.
Pages in the Wind is a riveting read; one I found quite impossible to step away from until I had read it through. Within its pages rests a first-rate psychological thriller and one of the most compelling coming of age stories I’ve read. De Smet’s writing style is haunting and delicious as her Emily narrates the marvelous episodes in her life as well as the most awful and nightmarish. Some passages shine so brightly; such as that describing Emily and Perry’s evening at his parents’ home. Others are sadly realistic in their starkness and brutality. Pages in the Wind is not just an impossibly good debut novel; it’s an outstanding work of literature and it’s most highly recommended.