When I first started contemplating my third book, I knew that I wanted to set it in my hometown of Shawnigan Lake, BC. I also knew that I wanted to explore the world of cults. Growing up, I’d heard rumors about a commune of hippies who used to live out by the river and my mother had told me stories about how they lived off the land, but that many of them were from the city. They would hobble their horses, which angered my mother who was a horsewoman through and through. They left the area when I was still a child—after a young toddler went missing one night and died of exposure.
My mother would often speculate about where they might’ve gone and her vivid stories wove their way into my imagination. When we were thirteen and eleven, my brother and I would ride our bikes down the long, dusty logging roads to swim in the river. We met a young family, living in a bus. The mother made me organic pizza. I still remember my teeth tearing into the whole-wheat crust, the taste of yeast and strange herbs mingling on my tongue. I was entranced with their way of life, the loose flowing clothes, bold colored sheets hanging on a rope, drying in the sun. We would spend the days playing with their two children, running through the woods, hunting for crayfish in the river.
When we got older, my brother and I spent many summer days four-wheel driving in the mountains, and sometimes we’d stop at the commune site, hiking down to the river through the old-growth forest, clambering down hills, and dive hot and sticky into the cold mountain river. Once in a while we’d find an old rusted car in the woods, or cans of food—the labels long gone. Or maybe an old fire pit. And I’d wonder, like my mother used to wonder, what happened to those people? Where did they all go? Did they stick with that way of life? Or did they rejoin society, get jobs, get mortgages, and car payments?
When I started dreaming up the story for ALWAYS WATCHING, all those memories flooded back, my senses alive with the tastes and sounds of those days. I wondered what might’ve happened if a stranger had come to that peaceful commune by the side of the river, someone with their own agenda, someone who only wanted power, not peace, and gradually a new commune came to life—a far more dangerous one. One that you couldn’t leave.
* * *
But she has a few of her own…
In the lockdown ward of a psychiatric hospital, Dr. Nadine Lavoie is in her element. She has the tools to help people, and she has the desire—healing broken families is what she lives for. But Nadine doesn’t want to look too closely at her own past because there are whole chunks of her life that are black holes. It takes all her willpower to tamp down her recurrent claustrophobia, and her daughter, Lisa, is a runaway who has been on the streets for seven years.
When a distraught woman, Heather Simeon, is brought into the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit after a suicide attempt, Nadine gently coaxes her story out of her—and learns of some troubling parallels with her own life. Digging deeper, Nadine is forced to confront her traumatic childhood, and the damage that began when she and her brother were brought by their mother to a remote commune on Vancouver Island. What happened to Nadine? Why was their family destroyed? And why does the name Aaron Quinn, the group’s leader, bring complex feelings of terror to Nadine even today?
And then, the unthinkable happens, and Nadine realizes that danger is closer to home than she ever imagined. She has no choice but to face what terrifies her the most…and fight back.
Sometimes you can leave the past, but you can never escape.
Told with the trademark powerful storytelling that has had critics praising her work as “Gripping ” (Kirkus), “Jaw-dropping ” (Publishers Weekly) and “Crackling with suspense ” (People magazine), ALWAYS WATCHING shows why Chevy Stevens is one of the most mesmerizing new talents of our day.