Rachel and Scott Douglas are the parents of two small children. Rachel is a stay-at-home mom who feels isolated—her husband works all hours in his job as an investment advisor, and she doesn’t have any close friends. So when she finds a new website, VirtualFriendMe, she is intrigued enough to sign upland recreate her best friend, Suzanne—who died two years ago. There should be something inherently creepy about creating a virtual version of a dead person, but the author manages to make this seem not only believable, but a logical course of action.
Meanwhile, Scott is feeling the pressure at work, and decides to create his own virtual friend after Rachel tells him about the site. Only Scott chooses a female friend, Alicia. She’s loving and supportive and he can tell her anything. She seems almost real. Then he sees someone in real life who looks like Alicia—coincidence, surely …
Friend Me was a mix of Single White Female, The Net, with shades of Nick Lesson’s real-life story. Parts of it made awkward reading, as in many ways Melissa was the best character. She was intelligent, hardworking and ambitious, a woman succeeding in a male-dominated industry. There was just the problem of her warped ethics and questionable business practices.
In contrast, Rachel’s life ambition was to get married and be a mother. To paraphrase the current retirement planning campaign with my bank, a man is not a life plan. In the author interview at the end, Fabion said she was the hardest character to write. It showed, in that Rachel was the character I had least sympathy for (which is curious, as I’m also a wife and mother. Perhaps that was because Rachel let her family role be her whole identity, and that seems unhealthy. But now I’m trying to psychoanalyse a fictional character, a virtual person if you like).
I thought Rachel was immature and needy, worrying that she wasn’t a good enough wife and mother (don’t we all?). The couple are supposed to be Christians, but there’s little mention of God, church or prayer, and it felt like Rachel was trying to please Scott and herself, not God. In contrast, Scott read his Bible at work … at least until he created Alicia.
Friend Me is a sobering reminder of how seemingly small acts can have unintended and unforseen consequences, as Scott and Rachel find. It’s an excellent first novel, with good characters that invite the reader to feel a range of emotions, and an unusual suspense plot that raises some interesting issues. Not for the faint-hearted. Recommended.
John Faubion is celebrating his debut novel, Friend Me, with a Kindle HDX giveaway!
One winner will receive:
- A brand new Kindle Fire HDX
- Friend Me by John Faubion