In This Way I Was Saved
On a chilly November afternoon, six-year-old Luke Nightingale’s life changes forever.
On the playground across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he encounters Daniel. Soon the boys are hiding from dinosaurs and shooting sniper rifles. Within hours, Luke and his mother, Claire, are welcoming Daniel into their Upper East Side apartment—and their lives.
Daniel and Luke are soon inseparable. With his parents divorcing, Luke takes comfort in having a near-constant playmate. But there’s something strange about Daniel, who is more than happy to bind himself to the Nightingales. The divorce has cut Luke’s father out of the picture, and as his increasingly fragile mother struggles with the insidious family depression, Daniel—shrewd, adventurous, and insightful—provides Luke both recreation and refuge.
As Luke grows from a child to an adolescent to a young man, he realizes that as much as his mother needs him, Daniel needs him more. Jealous of Luke’s other attachments, Daniel’s gestures of friendship turn into increasingly sinister manipulations. In the end, Luke finds himself in a daily battle for control of his own life—wondering whether he or Daniel will emerge victorious.
Praise for In This Way I Was Saved
“[An] assured, unnerving first novel … DeLeeuw’s fine, taut prose conjures vivid images that hint at danger. … He draws us into a world where psychological warfare is a way of life, and his characters’ understandings of who they are develop into a gripping mystery. … Haunting and persuasive.”Los Angeles Times
“Terrifying and terrifyingly good.”Vanity Fair
“A mysterious, psychologically craggy and highly readable New York novel.”Time Out New York
“[A] creepily compelling tale … [I]ts macabre climax will leave even the most rational reader feeling a little spooked.”Daily Mail (UK)
“DeLeeuw debuts with a strange tale seething with disturbing psychological overtones. … Hitchcock would have loved the premise.”Kirkus Reviews
“DeLeeuw’s debut novel is a riveting exploration of the dark side of self…. Suspenseful and terrifying, this tale about one’s shadow self running rampant is highly recommended.”Library Journal (starred review)
“DeLeeuw’s spellbinding debut is told from the point of view of a being who assumes the persona and desires of a boy’s repressed self. … DeLeeuw delivers a neat bundling of the classic story of a spirit possessing an innocent with the Jungian shadow self.”Publisher's Weekly
“Think human porosity, epic loneliness, and tyrannosaurus spit.”Flavorwire
“In many ways Saved is the ultimate postmodern polemic, incorporating themes of the nature of storytelling, meta-narratives and literary deconstruction, disguised as an exhilarating suspense novel. It’s the sort of book that readers will force their friends to read, and it will no doubt start many discussions about what constitutes the self. … Don’t be surprised to see In This Way I Was Saved show up on a lot of “Best Of” lists this year. DeLeeuw has written a stunning, fast-paced, well-plotted, and well-written novel that satisfies on just about every level. Daniel, Luke, and their story will stick with readers for years to come.”Hipster Book Club
“Elegant, unsettling and wildly original, In This Way I Was Saved reads like a coming-of-age-story with the heart of a nasty thriller.”Gillian Flynn, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of Gone Girl
“Original, subversive, funny, twisted, and totally engrossing, In This Way I Was Saved is a mind-bending tour de force. I read the last page, flipped back to the beginning, and immediately started it again.”Chelsea Cain, author of Heartsick and Sweetheart
Read an Excerpt
I enter the lobby of Claire Nightingale’s apartment building, here to tell her I have murdered her only son. As always, the marble foyer is hushed and dim, almost sepulchral, and, as always, two doormen stand watch over the evening shift. The one who opens the door for me is named Victor. He recognizes my face – of course he does, he’s worked here for years – and he says, “They starving you at that college? I can see your ribs, buddy.”
“Hunger strike,” I say, trying on a smile, but my voice comes out too loudly and echoes clumsily around the hollow space. My mouth still feels new, these lips, this meaty tongue. I cough to cover my mistake and walk towards the elevator at the back of the lobby. The second doorman looks up from his copy of the Post. Our eyes meet briefly, and he looks down again, uninterested.
“Ms. Nightingale just got in,” Victor calls after me. “She’ll be happy to see you. She’s always talking about you.”
I want to tell him that I already know she’s upstairs, that I saw her step out of her taxi fifteen minutes ago from my hiding spot across Central Park West. Instead I just give him a wave and press the elevator button. I sat on a park bench for hours, waiting for Claire to return from wherever she was – holed up in her Chelsea office, suffering through some hopeless date, alone at the movies – all the while holding myself tightly against the November cold. When a cab finally pulled up to the building and I saw Claire get out, her slight, familiar outline backlit by the lobby’s glow, I suppressed the urge to run across the street and grab her right there on the sidewalk. I had to remind myself about the doormen and the neighbors and the dog walkers, about strangers heading for the subway entrance on the corner or tourists who’d walked the wrong way after leaving the Museum of Natural History. This was a private matter; there was no need for anyone else to get involved.
From my bench I watched her hand Victor a leather bag, laugh along with something he said, touch his shoulder. Even at her lowest, she can always pull herself together for these brief encounters, these rote, mannerly interactions. There is always decorum. There is always propriety. I lived alongside Claire and her son, Luke, for thirteen years, and I know that trusting any particular Claire to hang around for too long is always a mistake. Luke never liked to admit this, to himself or anyone else, so I used to say it to his face: You’re not dumb, just incurably naïve. As I sat on the bench, Victor opened the door for Claire and pulled it shut after her. Behind my back, Central Park shivered along with me, bare branches and spindly bushes rasping in the wind. I stood up and stamped feeling back into my legs, still amazed at the brittleness of my new body.
But don’t mistake this for a complaint. I can now pick a coffee cup off the counter and carry it over to the table on the other side of the room. I can shake a man’s hand. I can drive a car. I can press my palm onto a square of wet cement and leave a mark. I have a voice that can be heard by anyone who cares to listen. I am here, in the world, in the flesh, a body moving in space. And, of course, Claire can no longer ignore me. She never liked how much time Luke spent alone with me; even when we were children she suspected that our friendship was the face of something dark and hidden. But tonight she will be forced to listen to what I have to say. It’s something for which I’ve waited a long time – fourteen years – and part of me wants to jab at the elevator button like a maniac, to sprint up the three flights to her apartment in one breath, to yell and scream and bang my head against the marble lobby walls.
But I don’t. I stand with my hands clasped behind my back, my body rigid and still, my frenzy contained. Above my head, floor numbers light up in reverse. In the brass doors, my reflection is murky and distorted, as though submerged in a pool of dirty water. Outside on the street, someone shouts, a car door slams. The second doorman shakes his newspaper. I wait and watch the numbers tumble downwards.