The Narcissist’s Daughter by Craig Holden

Craig Holden is the author of several novels including The River SorrowThe Last SanctuaryFour Corners of NightThe Jazz Bird and this book, The Narcissist’s Daughter.  He has also received Great Lakes Book Award in Fiction.  His books have been translated into a dozen languages.  He has taught at the Universities of Michigan, Toledo, and New Mexico State.

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In The Narcissist’s Daughter,he expands his vision of a dark but lyrical America. This is his most accomplished and controversial work to date.

It is  a drama about the collision between two families, both riddled with desires but from opposite sides of the tracks. The Kesslers appear to have it all: Dr. Ted Kessler is a decorated military veteran who now runs the lab at a large medical centre. He lives with his wife, Joyce and their daughter, Jessi, in a beautiful house in the estate section of an Ohio city in the 1970s. Ted is widely respected as a clinician, researcher, manager, and businessman. However, when he resolves to mentor an ambitious working-class student, this idyllic little world is threatened.

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Syd Redding is the gruff, streetwise narrator of The Narcissist’s Daughter. He has no plan in mind for the Kesslers.  He is a bored pre-med student with few prospects.  He has a failure for a stepfather, and a sister who seems to be following his example. Soon after he meets Kessler’s wife and daughter, he finds himself ensnared in the secret machinations of this magnetic family that is on the brink of unravelling.

The Narcissist’s Daughter is a readable story full of suspense.  It is about a simple affair that blossoms into obsession, exploitation, and finally, a passion for revenge that threatens to ruin the lives of everyone involved. I found this book fascinating and gripping.  I highly recommend it and will look out for more of Craig Holden’s work.

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