Sara Morgan, a student at a liberal arts college in upstate New York is violently killed by her boyfriend Blake Campbell. He admits to the crime straight away and pleads temporary insanity. Nicola Maye Goldberg’s beautifully written novel, Nothing Can Hurt You, follows how this violent crime affects the people in the community where Sara lived, as well as her family and friends.
Goldberg’s novel is not linear; instead, it reads like a series of short stories that don’t even necessarily connect to each other other than the fact that the character in each one is somehow connected to Sara.
Marianne, for example, has recently moved to Rhinebeck with her husband. Marianne is fragile. She suffers from episodes.
At first it was just nausea. Then came images, as clear as if I were watching them on television. They were so violent. I saw myself stretched out on a piece of wood. Then the wood snapped in half, and so did I.
It is these episodes that have driven Marianne and her husband out of NYC, where they both hope that the fresh air and slower pace of life will help Marianne heal from her trauma. It is Marianne who discovers Sara Morgan’s body.
Katherine meets Blake Campbell at Paradise Lake, a tranquil Recovery Centre.
If she’d met Blake at a party, or a bar, Katherine would have liked him a lot. It helped that he was movie-star handsome, the kind of handsome that shifted the air in the room when he walked in.
Then there’s Luna, Sara’s half sister. Luna was just two when Sara was killed so she has no real memories of her. Twenty years later she takes a job as a nanny to Blake’s daughter, Ruby.
Nothing Can Hurt You asks you to consider our fascination with violent crime, with the perpetrators and the victims. It is not a thriller per se, but it is a thrilling read. And while you don’t come to know any of the characters very well, especially not the victim, and although there isn’t a traditional resolution or structure, this is a book that is thoughtful, intelligent and well-written.