The Passenger, by Lisa Lutz, appeared in a list of books that had highly effective surprise endings. Not only are there abundant twists and turns in this book, Lutz is able to create a plot in which our heroine, Tanya Dubois, is able to repeatedly go off the grid, even in this day and age. She travels the country by car and by rail, surviving by her considerable wits, know-how and ability to read people.
Although she adopts different names, hair colors and identities, “Tanya” is not really your typical unreliable narrator. Readers can believe what she tells them; but no one else should. We have the sense that even though she’s on the run, and whatever the catalyst may have been, it wasn’t her fault. For one thing, she maintains an ironic, self-deprecating – and very dark – humor, which, for whatever reason, creates trust.
This novel is compelling on many levels. Tanya is like an onion; her secrets are many-layered, and peeled back ever so slowly. Information about her early life is gradually revealed in emails to and from a childhood friend. These emails are fraught with blame and bitterness and hint at traumatic events the two experienced during high school.
The surprise ending is well-earned and feels just. However, it’s so unexpected you want to go back and re-read the book with the new knowledge in mind.
I don’t understand why Lutz has never hit it big(ger). From the Spellman series onward, all her novels are finely crafted and populated with unique and/or eccentric characters.