Did you like the emotionally disturbing/psychological train wreck that was Gone Girl? You may really enjoy this one. The Oxygen Thief may be the male equivalent to Amy Dunne.
Diary of an Oxygen Thief is written as an actual diary by, as you can see above, Anonymous. The story starts in London. He’s an alcoholic who discovers that he loves emotionally abusing women but, as the story progresses, he eventually meets his match.: “… I realized I had found my niche in life. … They say the sea is actually black and that it merely reflects the blue sky above. So it was with me. I allowed you to admire yourself in my eyes. I provided a service. I listened and listened and listened. You stored yourself in me. Nothing had ever felt so right to me. If I’m honest, even today I miss hurting. I’m not cured of it, but I don’t set out to systematically dismantle like I used to.” pgs 6-7 ebook
I don’t know that I’ve ever disliked a character in a book as much as I despised this ‘Anonymous’. That’s saying something: “Why would anyone set out to break the heart of someone he loved? Why would anyone intentionally cause that kind of pain? Why did people kill each other? Because they enjoyed it. Was it really that simple? To achieve a soul-shattering, it is better if the perpetrator has been through the same experience. Hurt people hurt people more skillfully.” pg 9 ebook. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to finish this book, given how much I hated the beginning, but, just like the numerous women in his diary, I was drawn into the Oxygen Thief’s lair and then (gasp) began to feel sorry for him.
Partially, it was because he manages to clean himself up in AA. But, the other part, is that he moved to the American Mid-West and experienced some serious culture shock, which I couldn’t help but find charming:“American lawns are loaded with social and political meaning. There is a law somewhere that says you have to maintain your lawn or the neighbors can force you to. I knew nothing of this and immediately reveled in the possibility of allowing my front and back gardens to return to nature. A polite knock on my front door changed all that.” pg 34, ebook. He calls lawns, “gardens”. I can’t…
Like a Shakespearean play, the Oxygen Thief’s eventual downfall is foreshadowed by a beautiful woman he meets in AA: “She’s evil,” said the blonde. She herself had apparently witnessed the awful effect this girl could have on guys. She looked at me for far too long. Like I wasn’t taking her seriously enough. I wasn’t.” pg 50 ebook
I also learned something about the physiology of love and heartbreak: “I read somewhere that when someone is in emotional shock, the area around the heart loses some of its protective fat and is therefore dangerously exposed. One well-aimed punch is not just painful; when the person who has been in shock starts to put the weight back on, the heart remains bruised, and this can lead to aortic fibrillation. It’s not life threatening, but it is uncomfortable. pg 85 ebook Who knew?
There aren’t any likeable characters in this book, but it is impossible to put down, so I had to give it at least three stars for its readability. I was absolutely shocked at the terrible ways in which the Oxygen Thief behaved and then was treated. No wonder people are cynical if there are people like this in the world. I tried to do a bit of research to discover who this “Anonymous” really was, but failed to come up with anything. Maybe, as time passes, his true identity will be revealed.
Recommended for the serious fans of psychological warfare tales or for those who have survived a very nasty relationship and want to compare their battle scars. The author of this book was recently paid for the film rights so we may see a movie made out of it. I don’t know if I could sit through it, but, if made the right way, it could be a very intense examination of the damage that people do to each other in the name of “love”. The obvious read alike is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn but another book that reaches for the depressing depths of this one is: Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun.
A couple people have asked if this book is appropriate for teen readers and as a librarian and a mother, I say no. The themes are much too mature, sexually graphic, and emotionally disturbing. 16 or 17+ is my recommendation.
Thanks for reading!