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Eyes Wide Open: A Novel
by Andrew Gross

Published: 2011-07-12
Hardcover : 338 pages
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A horrible family tragedy that may not be what it seems . . .

A past encounter with an infamous killer turns deadly today . . .

An ordinary man must risk his own family to find the truth.

Jay Erlich's nephew has been found at the bottom of a cliff at Morrow Bay. It's all just a ...

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Introduction

A horrible family tragedy that may not be what it seems . . .

A past encounter with an infamous killer turns deadly today . . .

An ordinary man must risk his own family to find the truth.

Jay Erlich's nephew has been found at the bottom of a cliff at Morrow Bay. It's all just a tragic suicide, until secrets from the past begin to rear up again. Did a notorious killer, jailed for many decades, have his hand in this?

Years ago, Jay Erlich's older brother, Charlie, a wayward child of the sixties, set out for California, where he fell under the sway of a charismatic but deeply disturbed cultlike figure. Tragedy ensued and lives were destroyed, but as the decades passed, Charlie married and raised a family and lived a quiet, secluded life under the radar. Yet the demons that nearly destroyed him never completely disappeared.

When Jay heads out west to help his grieving brother, he is pulled back into Charlie's past--and begins to suspect that his nephew's suicide may not have been that at all. With eyes wide open, Jay puts his own life at risk to uncover the truth, a quest that goes beyond the edge of madness and a family haunted by a secret past . . . and into the depths of evil.

Drawing on two real-life experiences from his own past, Gross has crafted a richly personal, yet utterly terrifying tale of two brothers, one successful, one wayward, trying to bridge the gap of what tore them apart.



Amazon Exclusive: Lisa Gardner Interviews Andrew Gross

New York Times bestselling crime novelist Lisa Gardner began her career in food service, but after catching her hair on fire numerous times, she took the hint and focused on writing instead. A self-described research junkie, she has parlayed her interest in police procedure, cutting edge forensics and twisted plots into a streak of eleven bestselling suspense novels, including her most recent release, Love You More

Lisa Gardner: First, the question I?ve always wanted to ask another author: Where do you get your ideas?

Andrew Gross: It's just that if I told you I'd have to kill you Lisa, and you're so nice... Actually, as we both know, that process varies, and every author has his or her own path. You just pray like hell they come when you need them!

For me, this is the hardest and most stressful hurdle in what I do. The writing comes easy! For my last three books, I took conspiratorial headlines from the news?Iraq War scandals; people who used 9/11 to disappear from their life; the Wall Street financial meltdown?and wrapped them around more local and personal stories: a harrowing home invasion gone tragically wrong or a wife who wakes up one day to find her dead husband wasn't at all the person she thought she knew. Stories that I thought could achieve the emotional resonance I strive for in my books.

Eyes Wide Open took shape from two real life events straight from my own past. One was the sad suicide of my young nephew, a troubled kid, who was found at the bottom of a landmark cliff in central California. The second was a chance encounter forty years ago with none other than, ahem, Charles Manson! You'll have to read it to see how these stories link.

Blind Curve, the book I?m working on now, sprang from a crazy incident that happened to me last year while on my book tour. I was pulled out of my car for a minor traffic violation?an incident that escalated into my being thrown into cuffs and told I was going to jail. Except in my story, the hero doesn't get off as easily as I did.

As long as events like these keep happening to me, I'll be in good shape!

LG: Your last novel, Reckless, was a "ripped from the headlines" sort of novel, whereas Eyes Wide Open draws from events in your life. What prompted you to pull from your personal experiences this time around, and how hard was that to write?

AG: It's much, much, much harder to write a story from your own life that affects real people, and some of them people you care for--especially those who have suffered tragedy, like me brother. On the other hand, drawing from personal experience makes for a much more enriching and rewarding story, one that is filled with the detail and resonance of real life. I wanted to write a poignant, personal testament to my nephew that was also a thriller, using a theme I seem to carry from book to book--a family hiding a secret past; in this case, revolving around teenage suicide, sons fighting against their fathers, the L.A. music scene in the ?60s, and an encounter with that Manson-like figure. Hopefully what came out is a chilling, rich, autobiographical, and satisfying tale filled with the kind of richness and family lore that you usually find in a memoir. While writing Eyes Wide Open from events in my own life was tough, and awkward?and you know you may not please everyone?to me, it became more rewarding in the end.

LG: OK, so you mentioned that as a child you had a passing encounter with Charles Manson, which helped inspire Eyes Wide Open. Say what?

AG: Okay. I go back and forth on this. Eyes Wide Open isn't a book about Manson, or even a Manson-like character, though a cultish figure is a chilling detail in the book. My dad moved out to L.A. in the '60s and my older brother, a wayward spirit trying to become a musician, was out there as well, and, uh, took up residence on the Spahn Ranch, where Manson lived. At that time, Charlie was also trying to get his music produced. The two of them came up to my father's place one day and tried to sell him on anteing up for a demo. Manson was gaunt, quiet, creepy?and yes, he had those dark eyes. Though, at that time, Charlie Manson hadn't become the infamous "Charles Manson" yet! The scene eventually turned ugly?which I describe in the book--and they left, humiliated and angry. For years, my dad always insisted that the clan went up into the canyons that night looking to pay him back for what took place, but got lost in the L.A. hills and ended up at Sharon Tate's. Truth was, by that time my brother was long gone and, of course, there were other reasons the Manson clan ended up at Sharon Tate's house. But it makes a chilling scene!

LG: Having followed your novels since The Dark Tide, I?ve noticed that you're drawn to stories involving complex family dynamics. What is it about this theme that resonates so strongly for you, and how has your own experience as a father influenced your writing?

AG: I don't like writing straight-up thrillers. I like writing about families hurled into crisis and danger soccer moms and regular dads and husbands who might have to rescue their daughters or who are, say, hedge fund managers and have one foot on the sidelines watching their kids and the other in nefarious cover-ups and conspiracies. These are the "real life" stories that intrigue me and provide the basis for the emotional complexity I'm looking for. As for being a dad, it makes you know exactly what you would do--basically anything--to save your own family. And how creepy and evil one has to be to betray theirs!

LG: One thriller writer to another, what draws you to suspense? and what's your favorite thing about thrillers?

AG: You know what, Lisa, you can make a strong case that thriller writing is the single most relevant genre of fiction being written today, because it reflects the conflicts and crises and stories that we read every day in the news and that shape our world. The people who come to our craft aren't just graduate students, or MFA candidates or teachers, but CIA agents and journalists and doctors and lawyers whose experiences in life inform their work. As for suspense, I like to write books that draw you into the hero's plight from the opening pages, where people put their lives on the line for something--a belief, a family member, the truth. I?m actually more into heroism than evil--but it's hard to have one without the other and when their arcs meet and they clash... well, there's suspense!

LG: Without giving too much away, what's your favorite scene in Eyes Wide Open?

AG: Well, there are many, because the characters are based on people I know. But without doubt, one of the best involves my everyman hero, Jay Erlich, a doctor from Westchester who puts his successful life on hold and his life on the line to find the truth behind his nephew's suicide. Erlich goes to the super-max Pelican Bay Prison to see the long incarcerated Manson-like murderer, Russell Hovnanian. And the thing that makes that scene really creepy, and made hard to write, was that to be credible, this character, Hovnanian, had to be smarter than my hero, smarter than the very smart detective who accompanies him, even smarter than the reader! Oh yeah, the author too. But when it's pulled off, as I hope I did, it's a killer scene.

LG: You wrote six New York Times bestsellers with James Patterson. Dish. What was it like to work with Jim, and how much more fun is it to control everything yourself?

AG: Such good questions. Are you a writer, too? Oh, wait. Never mind.

Ha! Jim and I got along fine; he's an amazing idea guy, his instincts for plot are finely honed, and I think he might even say himself that he's a sharper editor than a writer. I always describe working with him as an MFA and MBA course in thriller management rolled into one. I learned a lot of things about how to craft a thriller that would have taken years to learn on my own?and how to put them in my own style. I'm honestly proud of the six books we did together, all of which went to number one. But yes, I?m kind of a control guy?how did you know?

To his credit, Jim let me have a substantial share of control on the books we did--probably a lot more than I would have. He's a much more evolved manager than me! And all these books later, I still kind of miss him, calling him up, running a plot idea by him. I mean, is there a better person in the world to bounce an idea off of... But I also like it when the checks are made out solely to me!

LG: Now tell me the truth. What is your least favorite part of writing?and you can only choose one.

AG: Easy? this is becoming a bit of a running theme here?loss of control! You shape your baby from the initial birth of an idea, live with it daily, watch it grow like a child into a fully dimensional being. You feel you know it better than anybody. Then you turn it over and put it out into the world and between the cover, the marketing, the presentation at retail and the sales, it all takes place without you being able to control its destiny a single lick! And by that time, you're already halfway into the next one anyway!

LG: Finally, what do you want readers to take away from reading Eyes Wide Open?and congrats on another great novel!

AG: Thanks, Lisa. What I would have them take away is that Eyes Wide Open is not only a thrilling read, it's also an engrossing, emotional family story?about a family with a dark history and the lengths it will go to protect that secret. It's also about two brothers, one wayward, the other successful, and how they try to bridge the gap that tore them apart. It reads like a personal memoir chock-full of thrills. And it's my family story.

So great to be with you today! I was a big fan of Love You More. It's been a lot of fun!



Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

Prologue



Sherry Ann Frazier knew she'd seen him somewhere before.

The gaunt, sharply cut edge of his jaw. The narrow, dimly lit

eyes, staring back at her. The probing intensity of his crooked smile.

Maybe on a trip somewhere, or at an airport. You know how you

pass by someone you might never see again and yet their face is per-

manently implanted in your mind. Or maybe she'd seen him at her

shop. People were always coming in . . . She'd seen him before--that

much she knew. Definitely.

She just couldn't remember where.

She was packing her groceries into her hatchback in the lot out-

side Reg's Market in the town of Redmond, Michigan. On Lake

Superior on the Upper Peninsula. Sherry had a bakery there, a couple

of blocks off the lake. Muffins, zucchini bread, brownies. And the

best damn apple crisps on the UP, according to the Redmond Crier.

She called them Eve's Undoing--a temptation no one could resist.

He was simply staring. Leaning in the entrance to Singer's Phar-

macy, next door. Looking very out of place. He never took his eyes

off her. Initially, it gave her the chills, but nothing bad or creepy ever

seemed to happen in Redmond. Maybe he was a workman at one of

the marinas. Or a war veteran down on his luck. The town always

had a few of those; they made their way up here in the summer,

when the place was filled with vacationers. She always gave them a

treat. Everyone has dignity, Sherry always maintained. Everyone was

always loved by someone in their life.

2 Andrew Gross



In Redmond, the biggest worry was losing value on the Cana-

dian "loonies" the tourists came here to spend.

Aware of him, she felt herself hurrying to fill up the car. Then she

wheeled back the cart, telling herself not to make eye contact.

As she climbed in her Saab she allowed herself a final glance in

the rearview mirror.

He was still watching her.

That's when she had the sense that she had seen him somewhere

before.

Sherry was fifty-two, youthful, still pretty, she knew, in a bohe-

mian sort of way. She didn't wear much makeup; she still kept her

hair braided back from her days as a flower child. Still wore peasant

blouses and kept herself thin. She was single again. Tom and she had

divorced, though like a lot of people in her life, they remained good

friends. She took art classes and yoga, studied Reiki. She fancied

herself a bit of an energy healer. She even did work in Healing/Touch

in the pediatric ward at the hospital in town.

Maybe that was it. Sherry brushed away her goose bumps. Maybe

he just found her attractive. A lot of people did.

As soon as she pulled out of the lot and onto Kent Street, she

remembered why she was there. Her daughter, Krista, was driving

up from Ohio with her little four-year-old "muffin," Kayla. Sherry

had closed the shop early and had brought home some carrot muffins

and cinnamon buns. She picked up Shrek Forever After and Find-

ing Nemo. She headed out of town and put the man at the market

behind her.



An hour later Sherry was at the house, a converted red barn out

on Route 141. Her kitchen was filled with copper pans and her famous

coffee mug collection, old Beatles and Cat Stevens albums, and an

RCA record player her granddaughter referred to as a "wheelie."

Along with Boomer, her old chocolate Lab.

She was up to her elbows in pie crust. Krista had called a while

back and said they'd be arriving in another hour. The kitchen door

EYES WIDE OPEN 3



was open; they were in the midst of a late summer heat wave and

in this old house, she needed any breeze she could find. She was lis-

tening to NPR on the radio, a discussion about end-of-life medical

treatment and how much it was costing. Sherry wasn't sure where

she came down on the issue, as long as you could ease people's suf-

fering.

Suddenly Boomer started barking.

Usually it was a car pulling up in the driveway, or maybe the UPS

truck, which often came around this time. Sherry wiped her hands

on her apron. Maybe Krista had surprised her and gotten there early.

She was just the kind to do that.

"Boomer!" she called excitedly, hurrying to the front door.

She looked, but no one was there.

She didn't even see the dog anywhere. Not that that mattered--

the old boy didn't go anywhere anymore. He could barely crawl onto

his mat and take a nap.

Then she heard a yelp from out back.

"Boomer?"

At his age, Sherry knew a jackrabbit could scare the dog half to

death. She left the front door ajar and went back into the kitchen.

She wanted to have the pie done by the time the girls arrived. Get

that mama into the oven . . .

As she got back to the table, her eyes were drawn to the floor.

"Boomer!"

The old dog was on his side, panting, unable to move. Sherry ran

over and kneeled beside him. "Poor boy . . . Not now, baby, I'm not

ready for this." She stroked his face. "Krista and Kayla are on their

way . . ."

She ran her hand along his neck and drew it back, startled.

Warm, sticky blood was all over her palm.

"Boomer, what in God's name happened?"

Suddenly she heard the shuffle of footsteps from behind her. She

looked up.

Someone was there.

4 Andrew Gross



A man was in her doorway. He just stood there, leaning on the

door frame.

Her heart almost came up her throat when she realized just who

it was. It was the man she had seen at Reg's Market.

A shiver of fear ricocheted through her. What could he possibly

be doing here?

She looked at Boomer, the dog's blood on her hands, and glared

back at him. "What the hell have you done?"

The man just stood there grinning, leaning against the door.

"Hello, Sherry."

She stood up, focusing on his face, years tumbling back, like a

fog lifting over the pines and the lake coming into view.

Her hand shot to her mouth. "Mal?"

It had been such a long time ago. More than thirty years, a part

of her life she had long buried. Or thought she had. Forever. She

never thought she'd see any of them again. Or have to account for

what she'd done. She was just a crazy kid back then . . .

"It's been a while, huh, doll?" His dark eyes gleamed.

"What are you doing here, Mal?"

"Making amends." He winked. "Long overdue, wouldn't you

say? The master of the house--you remember that, don't you,

Sherry? Well, he's come home."

He was grinning, teeth twisted, that same unsettling grin she

had seen at the market, tapping something in his palm.

It was a knife. A knife with blood all over it.

Boomer's blood.

Sherry's heart started to pound. Her eyes shot to her dog, whose

chest had now stopped moving. A chill sliced through her, and with

it, a terror she hadn't known in years.

The man stepped inside, kicking the screen door closed.

"So tell me"--he smiled, tap-tap-tapping his blade--"what've

you been up to all these years, hon?"

PArt I

C hAPter o n e







A myriad of lights flickered brightly in the distance. The whoosh

of the surf cascading against the rocks was only a far-off whisper

hundreds of feet below.

From up here, the lights all seemed just like candles to him. Mil-

lions of candles! Like the whole world had all come out and assem-

bled before him, an endless procession at his feet.

It made him smile. He had never seen anything more beauti-

ful in his life. He had always wondered what it would be like from

up here--the gigantic mound of rock, miles and miles of coastline

stretching below.

Now he knew.

You could probably see all the way to L.A., the boy imagined. He

was no longer a boy really, he was twenty-one--though sometimes

he still felt like one.

What are the voices saying to you now?

He stepped out closer to the ledge. "They're saying this is where

I was meant to be."

He had made the climb up hours ago, before it got dark, to be

alone with his thoughts. To calm the noise that was always in his

head. To see . . . And now it was just so beautiful. And all the voices

had quieted except one.

His angel, he called her. The one voice he could trust.

Have you ever seen anything more beautiful? the angel asked

him.

8 Andrew Gross



"No, I haven't." He looked down at the lights of the small coastal

town. "Never."

Waves crashed against the jagged rocks below. His heart picked

up excitedly. "I can see the whole world."

Yes, it's all there for you.

He hadn't taken his meds today. Usually that made him a little

foggy, his thoughts jumbled. But today, maybe for the first time ever,

his mind was clear. Completely clear. "I feel just like Jesus."

Maybe you are, his angel answered.

"Then maybe I should just return from where I came. Maybe

God wants me back. Maybe that's what I'm feeling."

You're not meant for this world, the voice replied. You're

smarter. You were destined for greater things. You've always known

that, right?

Yes. The voice was soothing and close to his ear. His heart began

to pound like the surf. There's only one way to find out . . .

He took another step, closer to the edge, the darkness surround-

ing him. The breeze brushed against his face. "That feels good. I feel

good. I feel good about this."

Just spread your arms, his angel instructed him.

"Like wings?" He opened his arms wide. "You mean like this?"

Yes, just like that. Now think of heading home. The pain you

will no longer be feeling. You see those lights? They're all so beauti-

ful, aren't they?

"They are!"

Beneath him, a piece of the ledge broke loose. It took several

seconds until he heard the sound of it breaking apart on the craggy

rocks below. He stepped back, fear springing up in him. "I'm scared."

Don't be. This is the moment it's all been leading to. All these

years. You know this, don't you?

"Yes." He nodded. "I know . . ."

Then open your arms. Just let the wind caress your face. Let the

darkness take you. It's easy . . .

"I feel it!" the boy said. He spread his arms. "I do."

EYES WIDE OPEN 9



Feel how loving its touch is. How free of pain. You've been in so

much pain lately.

"I have been. Yes, I have."

It would be good to be rid of the pain, just for once. To stop

the voices. To stop feeling he was letting everyone down. He knew

how much of a burden he was. To his parents. To everyone who had

expectations of him. The absence of pain is heaven, isn't it? Heaven.

That would be nice. To finally be free of it.

Then just reach out, the angel said. Let it take you. Like the

wind. Just think of heading home. That's all it is. You can do that,

can't you?

"I think so," he said, nodding. "I think so."

Sucking in a breath, he stepped farther out on the edge, his pulse

picking up speed. Only the cushion of darkness beneath him. The

welcoming sound of the surf far below. How incredibly peaceful it

all was. And those candles, so beautiful . . .

So this was it . . .

"I'm so sorry!" he shouted to the panoply of lights. To his mother

and father. He knew how much this would hurt and disappoint them.

"Like an angel . . ." he said, shutting his eyes. A final cacophony

built in his brain. He stretched out his arms wide, palms in the air.

"Like this . . . ?"

Yes, just like that, the angel said.

Then fly.

C hAPter two







t he gal in the white lace sundress was as sexy as I'd ever seen.

She had shoulder-length, sandy-blond hair, a little tangled and

windswept. Eyes as blue and inviting as a Caribbean cove, the kind

you could dive right into. A strap of her dress dangled loosely off her

shoulder, exposing the shape of her breast, and she smiled, bashful

yet unconcerned. The second I laid my eyes on her I remembered

thinking, Now there's the woman I've been waiting for all these

years. The one I could live with forever.

And as I stumbled down across the dunes to the ocean, lugging

the bottle of Veuve Clicquot and our meal, the lights from our beach

house washing over her face, I said for about the millionth time in

the past twenty years just how lucky I was that I had.

"Get down here," Kathy called. "There's not much time before I

start to freeze my butt off and the whole thing's ruined."

"You know, a little help might do the trick," I yelled back.

I was balancing the champagne, the bowl of fresh pasta I had just

topped off with truffles and butter, and my iPod speaker. The blan-

ket was already laid out on the sand--the "table" set, the candles lit,

re-creating that night from twenty years ago.

Our wedding night.

No fancy party or trip. Just us, for a change. Both of our kids

were away. The truth was, we rarely even celebrated our anniver-

sary, not since our daughter, Sophie, was born a year later on the

very same day. August 28. But this year she was already at Penn and

EYES WIDE OPEN 11



our sixteen-year-old, Max, was at fall lacrosse camp before school

began.

We were at our beach house in Amagansett, basically just a cozy

cape house nestled into the Hampton dunes.

"Yow, sand crab!" I yelped, hopping onto a foot and almost

pitching the tray.

"You drop that bowl, mister, and you can forget about whatever

you have in mind for later!" Kathy jumped up, taking the pasta from

me and setting it on the blanket, where she had laid out a hand-

printed menu, bamboo place mats, fluted champagne glasses, and

candles. There were even little name cards.

I looked closer and noticed that they were from Annette's, up in

Vermont, where we'd had our wedding.

The very same name cards--with the same little blue ribbons--

but this time they were inscribed with the words: "To my wonderful

husband. For 20 beautiful years."

I have to admit, my heart crumbled just a bit on that one. "Nice

touch."

"Thought you'd enjoy that one. Sophie did the lettering. Not to

mention letting us have the day."

"Remind me later to thank her," I said. I sat down and started

to pour some champagne. "Wait--almost forgot!" I connected the

speaker to my iPod and pushed the play arrow. "My contribution!"

Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight" spread over the beach. It wasn't

really "our song"; it was played a lot back then when we started get-

ting cozy with each other at college. I was never the big romantic or

anything. Kathy always said she had a thirty-second window to hold

my hand before I would let go.

"So happy anniversary," I said. I leaned in close to kiss her.

"Say it first," she said, keeping me at bay.

"Say what?"

"You know damn well what. . . ." She lifted her champagne glass

with a determined glimmer in her eye. "Not like you said it back

then . . . like you really mean it this time."

12 Andrew Gross



"You mean how you were the one I wanted to honor and take

care of for the rest of our lives . . . ?"

"Yeah, right!" She chortled. "If only you had said it like that."

What I'd said, or kind of barked at her back then, going eighty

on the New York Thruway--kind of a running joke all these

years--after being nudged and pressed to set a wedding date, hold-

ing off until I'd finished my residency and hooked up with a job,

then further delaying until Kathy was done with hers, was some-

thing a bit more like: "Okay, how about Labor Day? Does that

work for you?"

"Does that work . . . ?" Kathy blinked back, either in disbelief

or shock at having received about the lamest proposal ever. "Yeah, it

kinda works . . ." She shrugged.

I think I drove on for another exit before I turned and noticed her

pleased and satisfied smile.

"Well, it seems to have . . ." I wrapped my champagne glass

around hers, looking in her eyes. "Worked. We're still here!"

The truth was, I'd come from a family of revolving divorces. My

father, five--all with beautiful younger women. My mom, three.

None of the marriages ever lasted more than a couple of years. In

my family, whenever someone popped the question, it was more like

code for saying that they wanted to split up.

"So then say it," Kathy said. Her gaze turned serious. "For real

this time."

It was clear this wasn't her usual horsing around. And the truth

was, I'd always promised I'd make it up to her if we lasted twenty

years.

So I put down my glass and pushed onto a knee. I took her hands

in mine, in the way I had denied her those years before, and I fixed

on those beautiful eyes and said, in a voice as true as I'd ever spo-

ken: "If I had the chance to do it all over again--a hundred times,

in a hundred different universes--I would. Each and every time. I'd

spend my life with you all over again."

Kathy gave me a look--not far from the one in the car twenty

EYES WIDE OPEN 13



years ago--one that I thought at any second might turn into, Oh,

pleeze, Jay, gimme a break.

Until I saw her little smile.

"Well, you have," she said, touching her glass against mine.

"Taken care of me, Jay. All of us."

I winked at her. "Now, can we eat?"

I think we both knew we would stay together from the first time

we met. We were undergrads back at Cornell, and I had long, curly

brown hair in those days and broad shoulders. Played midfield on the

lacrosse team. We even went to the Final Four my junior year. Kathy

was in veterinary science. I still kept my hair kind of long, but I'd

added tortoiseshell glasses now, along with a slightly thicker waist.

These days, it took a hundred sit-ups and a half hour on the tread-

mill every couple of days to keep me in some kind of shape.

"Yes." She started to spoon out the salad. "Now we can eat."

My cell phone sounded.

I groaned. I hadn't even realized I'd had it on me. Habit, I guess.

After twenty years of being on call, the ring of the phone intruding

on a potential Cialis moment was the ultimate deflating sound.

Kathy sighed. "Probably the kids. You know how they like to

bust a good mood."

I looked at the screen. It wasn't the kids at all.

"It's Charlie."

My brother. Eight years older. He and his wife, Gabby, both

bipolar, each with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, lived in Cali-

fornia as wards of the state, along with Evan, their twenty-one-year-

old son. We helped out with their rent, pitched in financially when

they got in over their heads. Which was often. They always seemed

to need something. A call from them was rarely good news.

Kathy exhaled at me. "It's our anniversary, Jay . . ."

My first thought was to let it go to voice mail, but I picked up.

"Hi, Charlie . . . ," I answered, some irritation coming through.

It wasn't him. It was Gabriella. "I'm sorry to bother you, Jay . . . ,"

she began, like she always began, in her gravelly, deep-throated voice

14 Andrew Gross



and still-heavy Colombian accent. "Something terrible has happened

here." Her voice was shaky and distressed. "Evan is dead."

"Dead?" My eyes immediately shot wide, finding Kathy's. Evan

was their only child. He had always been troubled; he'd been diag-

nosed as bipolar as well. Out of school. Not working. In and out of

trouble with the law. But dead? "How?"

"He jumped off the rock. In Morro Bay." Then she choked back

a sob, any attempt at control completely unraveling. "Evan is gone,

Jay. He killed himself. My son is no more."

... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Why do you think Jay gets involved in Charlie’s problems, even though he could be putting his own family in danger? What was at the core of his feelings for Charlie? And what does it say about ordinary heroism?
2. In the beginning of EWO, Charlies is a sympathetic figure. How does your view change of him throughout the book? Does an act of courage or love make him end up a redeeming figure?
3. What is the significance of the “eyes” which appear throughout the book?
4. The origins of this story are, according to the Author Notes, autobiographical. Does the story create a proper balance between the “real” events that would affect someone personally and the fictional requirements of a crime thriller?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Note from author Andy Gross:

EYES WIDE OPEN is a different kind of book for me—autobiographical, a personal chronicle—yet a thriller building on the same electric pace and elements of reversal and surprise readers know me for. It’s drawn from two real-life experiences from my own past: the suicide of my young nephew last year, found at the base of a landmark cliff in California; and a chance encounter in my youth with an infamous cult killer, whose name has become synonymous with wanton murder and terror. In between, there are themes of bipolarity, sons who fight against their fathers, two brothers, one wayward, one successful; the Sixties, lore from the garment business; and scenes with that feared murderer from prison, whose tentacles are just as chilling today as they were back then. I think readers will find it both a chilling and an emotional ride, and I hope draws you into the world of mental instability and two brothers, one wayward, one successful, trying to bridge the gap that tore them apart.

Book Club Recommendations

If you are too young to remember the '70s, some of the characters will not mean so much, do some research.
by reading1 (see profile) 02/14/12

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Eyes Wide Open"by reading1 (see profile) 02/14/12

Started a little slow but picked up speed and kept me reading to the very end. I didn't want to put it down until I found the answers to my questions about the characters. We enjoyed discussing this... (read more)

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