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The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh
Thriller

The Blinds

by Adam Sternbergh

Excellent choice

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Quick take

"Seamlessly mixes the western and thriller genres, crafting a tense and unsettling read that brings to mind Cormac McCarthy."

Synopsis

For fans of Cormac McCarthy, Jim Thompson, the Coen Brothers, and Lost.

Imagine a place populated by criminals—people plucked from their lives, with their memories altered, who’ve been granted new identities and a second chance. Welcome to The Blinds, a dusty town in rural Texas populated by misfits who don’t know if they’ve perpetrated a crime or just witnessed one. What’s clear to them is that if they leave, they will end up dead.

For eight years, Sheriff Calvin Cooper has kept an uneasy peace—but after a suicide and a murder in quick succession, the town’s residents revolt. Cooper has his own secrets to protect, so when his new deputy starts digging, he needs to keep one step ahead of her—and the mysterious outsiders who threaten to tear the whole place down. The more he learns, the more the hard truth is revealed: The Blinds is no sleepy hideaway. It’s simmering with violence and deception, aching heartbreak and dark betrayals.

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The Blinds

From chapter one:

She's old enough, at thirty-six, to remember flashes of other places, other lives, but her son is only eight years old, which means he was born right here in the Blinds. She was four months pregnant one the day she arrived, her secret just starting to show. If the intake officer noticed, he didn't say anything about it as he sat her down at a folding table in the intake trailer and explained to her the rules of her new home. No visitors. No contact. No return. The he taught her how to properly pronounce the town's official name--Caesura, rhymes with tempura, he said--before telling her not to worry too much about it since everyone just calls it the Blinds.

Caesura.

A bad name, she thought then and thinks now with too many vowels and in all the wrong places. A bad name for a bad place, but then what real choice did she have?

Reclining now at two a.m. on the wooden steps of her front porch, she pulls out a fresh pack of cigarettes. The night is so quiet that unwrapping the cellophane sounds like a faraway bonfire. As she strips the pack, she looks over the surrounding blocks of homes with their rows of identical cinder block bungalows, each with the same slightly elevated wooden porch, the same scrubby patch of modest yard. Some people here maintain the pretense of giving a shit, planting flowers, mowing grass, keeping their porches swept clean, while others let it all grow wild and just wait for whatever's coming next. She glances down the street and counts the lights still on at this hour: two, maybe three households. Most everyone else is sleeping. Which she should be, too. She definitely shouldn't be smoking.

Well, she doesn't smoke, she tells herself, as she pulls a cigarette free from the pack

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Why I love it

I have to admit something: Several times in the last few months I’ve wanted to snap my laptop shut and throw it across a room. I have yelled at my television and deleted social media apps from my phone. And I’ve often thought, "It would be really nice to get away from everything, disconnect from the world, live a quiet life in the middle of nowhere, and forget about it all."

Reading The Blinds, however, snapped me out of it even as it provided a satisfying escape. The title refers to a remote, off the grid town in the middle of Texas—a place named Caesura, a small village the locals call "the Blinds." No one is really a local, per se; everyone who lives in Caesura came there from someplace else, although their origins are unknown. Their identities have been swiped from their brains in a very Eternal Sunshine fashion—not because they were hoping to escape some sort of heartbreak, however, but because they are trying to escape violence in their past.

The people who live in the Blinds have new identities and choose brand new names by combining the names of Hollywood actors and vice presidents: So for instance, Greta Fillmore runs the local bar, Spiro Mitchum keeps the store fully stocked, and Calvin Cooper patrols as town sheriff. The residents of Caesura are hiding from themselves, too—some are former criminals, while others (they hope) are innocents mixed up in bad business and in need of a new life and new identity'”witness protection at its most extreme.

This experimental sanctuary—not quite utopia or dystopia—starts to crack when one of the residents is discovered dead from an apparent suicide. Weeks later, another man ends up dead, and it’s up to Sheriff Cooper to keep the townspeople calm and to put the pieces of the puzzle together. With a twist at every turn, the peaceful community starts to reveal a troubling darkness hidden beneath its rocky, dusty surface. It’s not long before the town erupts into violent chaos, a staggering conclusion that comes at you as fast as a freight train.

With The Blinds, Adam Sternbergh seamlessly mixes the western and thriller genres, crafting a tense and unsettling read that brings to mind Cormac McCarthy and the truly weird work of Shirley Jackson. But The Blinds isn’t just homage—Sternbergh is a master all his own. This cast of characters imprisoned by their forgotten identities is enough to make you appreciate knowing exactly who you are, and where. Even if the world around you can be maddening, at least it’s familiar.

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Member ratings (6,389)

  • Kyra C.

    Portland, OR

    Fastest I’ve read a book in a long time. Really good characters and fun new ideas. Not too intense for the subject matter.Some mentions of rape, but even as someone sensitive it didn’t bother me much.

  • Erica B.

    Braintree, MA

    This is one of my favorite BOTM books I’ve read so far. The premise for this book is brilliant. This book really makes you question what makes someone good or evil. I was rooting for the “bad guys”

  • Noelle M.

    Englewood, CO

    So good! I ended up finishing it with a couple of days because I just couldn’t put it down for long! I love the concept of the town, and the psychology behind it. The multiple storylines were cool too

  • katie b.

    Decatur, IN

    I went in with no expectations and was blown away. The story was so fast paced and interesting that I couldn’t put it down. Shock after shock was given with a kick ass ending. I loved this whole book

  • Megin S.

    Lake Mills, WI

    I loved the originality of this storyline. I was engaged throughout the entire book and found myself cheering for some truly despicable characters. The wrap up felt weak to me but I loved the ride! ❤

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