You took your head from your hands. Your eyes flashed at me for a moment, but they weren't icy. They'd thawed a little. They looked wet. For a second I wondered if you'd been crying, too.
You saw me studying you and turned away. Then you went out of the room and came back several minutes later with a glass of water. You sat beside the bed and held it out to me. "I won't do anything to you," you said. (6.17-18)
This kind of behavior is really disorienting for us readers who are used to typical TV abduction plots. Ty kidnapped Gemma, so shouldn't he be keeping her in a pit in his basement and depriving her of food and water? Instead, he actually seems pretty decent—aside from the whole abduction thing, that is.
You stopped the car and turned off the engine. You got out and leaned against the hood. You peered at the boulders, looking for me. You'd seen me running; I was sure of that. You could probably see me there, too, shivering against the rocks, trying desperately to soak in some of their heat.
"Gem?" you called.
After a moment, you went around to the passenger door and opened it. You took out a sweater, came back, and held it out.
"Come back to me." (19.12-15)
Okay, so first he brings her a glass of water and doesn't follow the Law & Order playbook. Now, he brings her a sweater. What's this guy's deal? Even though he still has the kidnapping thing hanging over his head, there's a part of him that seems to have Gemma's best interests in mind—at least within the confines of his property.
I didn't struggle. I didn't do anything. My body went limp. In the house you wrapped me in blankets. You put something hot in my hands, which you made me drink. But my body and my brain and my insides had frozen solid and nothing would thaw them. (20.1)
Ty's motivations here seem really weird; it's like he lets her get lost in the Separates so she can realize how much she needs him. Let's also offer another friendly reminder that he kidnapped her—and yet he's still doing all these weirdly compassionate things for her rather than just hurrying up and killing her already.
When I was trapped in the house, it felt like I'd already died. At least when I was with you, it felt like my life mattered somehow.… No, that's not really it; it felt like my life was being noticed. It sounds weird, I know, but I could tell that you liked having me around. And that was better than the alternative, that feeling of emptiness that threatened to drown me every hour of being in that house. (35.8)
It's funny how the farther we get into her stay with Ty, the more Gemma begins to sense that he really doesn't mean her any ill will. Obviously if he likes having her around, he's going to keep being nice and not kill her.
You smiled, remembering. "You asked me if I was looking for Easter eggs. We talked—you told me about your fairies and their flower houses. I told you about the Min Mins: the spirits who live in the trees around here and try to steal lost children. And you weren't scared, like most people were of me back then.… You just looked at me like a regular person. I liked that." (37.25)
This recollection of the first time Ty met Gemma kind of gives us some insight into why he treats her with the compassion he does: As it happens, she was actually kind to him first. You have to consider that Ty probably didn't look like a normal dude after spending all that time in the Australian bush; at best, he was probably really tanned (and not in a hot model way) and looked homeless. And yet, Gemma treated him with kindness.
"What did you do to him? After you dragged him into the bushes?"
You looked at me then. A flash from your eyes told me you knew exactly what I was talking about.
"Nothing," you said. "I did nothing."
"He left me alone after that."
I uncurled my knees and leaned toward you […] "Do you think you saved me from him?" (46.61-66)
Maybe attacking a guy and dragging him into the bushes doesn't look compassionate on the surface, but who knows what Josh was planning on doing that night? It's interesting that Gemma's kidnapper—not the teenage boy who has a crush on her—is the one who seems to care about her the most.
"But it's always like this with camels … baby steps. Just one tiny thing at a time until she learns to accept." (47.11)
Ty might be a kidnapper, but he's also pretty patient. He's patient with Gemma as she acclimates to her new surroundings. He's patient with the camel after they steal her from her herd. What he does might be bad, but we can't help feeling like Ty isn't altogether a terrible person.
When I woke, it was cool. Almost too cool. Cloths soaking with water were lying over my body. On each side of me, a fan was whirring […] Your hand reached across, picked up the cloth, and put it back, squeezing its water gently onto my skin.
"Thank you," I whispered. (62.1-2)
After Gemma's massive failure of an escape attempt, Ty comes after her, finds her, and brings her back to his place to take care of her sunburns and dehydration. And Gemma actually thanks him for it. By this point, she recognizes his compassion as genuine and seems to understand that, bizarre as it seems, his intentions around her captivity are good.
You carried me inside the plane, laid me on something soft. Then you started to pull away. I reached out and grabbed your hand, locked my fingers around yours. I wouldn't let go. I didn't want to be left alone with these strangers. I looked up at you, found your eyes. You hesitated, glanced back outside at the tarmac and flatness and red land beyond … then back at me. You nodded slightly as you sat. You started talking to me. I don't know what you said. But there were tears in your eyes. (89.3)
We need to take a minute to process exactly what Ty does in this scene because when it comes down to it, it represents the ultimate act of compassion in this book. Gemma doesn't want to be left alone—and even though it means getting caught and facing jail time and the loss of his freedom, Ty nonetheless chooses to stay on the plane with her. If you doubted that he cares for her, this choice should clear that up.
The judge will sentence you. I can't stop that. But perhaps my testimony may influence where they send you … somewhere near your land, a room with a window this time. Maybe. And perhaps this letter may help you, too. I want you to see that the person I glimpsed running beside the camel, running to save my life, is the person you can choose to be. I can't save you the way you want me to. But I can tell you what I feel. It's not much. But it may give you a chance. (111.9)
While she contemplates making up a story about how she knew Ty before the kidnapping and chose to run away with him, Gemma knows that, ultimately, the most compassionate thing she can do for Ty is tell the truth and see that he's punished for what he did. Most likely, even if she had lied, he would have ended up in jail anyway because there's still that whole bit about Gemma being a minor. Nonetheless, she knows that she has some influence on what his experience will be like and how he could change from this point forward.
I made a sort of choking noise. As far as I could see, there was nothing. There was only flat, continuous brown land leading out to the horizon. Sand and more sand, with tussocks of small scrubby bushes standing up like surprises and the occasional leafless tree. The land was dead and thirsty. I was in nowhere. (4.14)
Getting abducted from an airport is bad enough. Finding out that you've been exiled to the middle of who-knows-where is worse. This has to be terrifying.
"Will you let me go, out back?"
You shook your head. "There's nothing to escape to," you said. "I've told you. It's a wilderness." (7.16-17)
Being kidnapped and held in the wilderness doesn't just mean total isolation. It means there's nowhere to run to, baby … nowhere to hide. (Sorry, but we love us some cheesy '60s girl groups.)
Other times I heard nothing. I strained my ears for the roar of an engine, a car or an airplane howling toward me. I found myself longing for a highway. But there was never anything. It was amazing how quiet it was. I wasn't used to it. I even spent a day or two thinking I had hearing damage. It was as if all the sounds I was used to had disappeared from the world. (12.3)
The really scary part about all this is that Gemma is surrounded by evidence that, with the exception of her captor, she is completely alone. The silence described here has to be terrifying after spending her entire life in a city.
I shielded my eyes. There was nothing but sand and flatness and horizon. I used the branches to turn myself around, grazing my leg a little on the rock. But there were no buildings on the other side, no towns … not even a road. It looked the same on that side as it had looked near the house. Long, flat emptiness. I wanted to scream, probably the only reason I didn't was because I was worried you would hear me. If I had a gun, I think I would have shot myself. (17.4)
Wow. Now, that's despair. Gemma has lost total control—she's being held against her will in a place where her abductor is the only other person around, and she can't even kill herself the way she wants to. The emptiness of this view is enough to make her want to totally give up hope.
I glanced at the cloudless blue sky. There were no planes up there, no helicopters. No rescue missions. Lying in bed, I'd had the idea of writing "help" in the sand, but I realized then, it was a pretty stupid idea if no one ever flew over anyway. I turned to see the rest of the view: horizon, horizon, Separates, horizon, horizon … nowhere to run. (30.6)
Gemma is so isolated that she can't even live out the cliché of writing "help" in the sand. Seriously, there's nobody around. Except Ty.
Perhaps there was something more to those two words … some sort of a need to connect, wanting to use my voice rather than risk losing it. Because that's what it felt like, then, when that wind was up and blowing the sand around; it felt like it could blow my voice completely away from me, too. I was disappearing with those grains, scattering with the wind. (30.25)
The isolation of the desert is so permeating, so widespread, that Gemma actually feels like it's taking away her identity, eroding her away to the point of not even existing anymore. Kind of gives literal meaning to the idea of being stolen.
I tried to ignore what was happening on the dashboard, and kept driving. I looked straight ahead, focusing on those shadows shimmering on the horizon. The land stretched on and on, never ending. No tracks. No telegraph lines. There was nothing to say that humans had ever been there. Only me. (55.4)
Gemma's sense of power at getting the car away from Ty is short-lived once she realizes there's nowhere to go. Also, those shadows on the horizon end up just being sand dunes. Not exactly helpful for planning her escape and guiding her to civilization.
I climbed the dune […] There was nothing any different on the other side. There was no mine site, no people. There was only more sand, more rocks, more trees, and again, more shadowy dunes in the distance. As far as I could see I was the only person out there […] If I died right there on that dune, no one would know about it. Not even you. (57.8)
Have you noticed how many times Gemma climbs stuff in this book only to realize there's nothing on the other side? It's interesting how, even in the middle of this extreme isolation, some part of her still can't give up.
I lowered myself onto the crate outside the door as it all sunk in. I'd always kept a small seed of hope alive, hope that I'd be able to escape. But suddenly I realized something. That view of sand and endlessness … that was it, that was my life. Unless you took me back to a town, that was all I'd ever see. No more parents or friends or school. No more London. Only you. Only the desert. (65.8)
Gemma may spend a lot of time climbing things to see what's on the other side, but she eventually reaches the point of realizing that unless Ty decides to send her back, she's not going to escape this isolation. Ever. The idea of not seeing any people except for him has to just make things worse.
It didn't make me glow, though. I felt more like I was fading away, like the world had forgotten me. As I stared at the glinting sand, I wondered if my disappearance was making the news. Was anyone still interested? I knew papers dropped stories when there wasn't anything new to report. And what could be new about my story, when the only thing that ever changed was the way the wind blew? (67.6)
The hopelessness of her isolation is enough to make Gemma wonder if she even exists back home or if people have given up on trying to find her. As she notes, it's not like they know to look for her in Australia.
You were beautiful in a rough sort of way, but you were older than I'd realized […] From a distance, when I'd seen you at the check-in line, your body had looked thin and small, like the eighteen-year-olds at my school, but up close, really looking, I could see that your arms were hard and tanned, and the skin on your face was weathered. You were as brown as a stretch of dirt. (1.23)
Clearly Ty isn't someone who spends a lot of time in conventional society. We eventually learn this, but from the point when we first meet him, it's pretty obvious from his appearance that nature is his primary environment.
I glanced at you. "How did you get here?"
"Walked. It took about a week. When I got here, I collapsed."
"All by yourself?"
"Just me. The rocks gave me dreams … and water, of course. It's special, this place. I stayed here about two weeks, camping in the middle, living off those rocks. When I got home, everything had changed." (7.40-43)
From the time he was a child, Ty has learned to rely on the land as his primary source of pretty much everything. His connection to it is almost mystical—he connects dreams with physical resources like water and sees rocks as something off which he can live.
"You're a new person now, Gem," you murmured. "That old you's been left behind. There's a chance out here to start again." (8.55)
Ty sees nature as more than just his habitat; it's a place where someone can shed his skin, let go of the past, and become a new person. We imagine this is what it must have felt like when Ty returned to Australia after being taken to the children's home in the city.
"Anyway, we've got chickens," you said. "And when you're—" You stopped to look at me before choosing the right word. "When you're acclimatized, we can go walkabout, pick up some bush foods. And we should catch a camel, too, sometime, maybe a couple. We can keep them in the boulders, stick a fence around." (10.24)
One of Ty's goals in bringing Gemma to Australia is to initiate her into a more natural way of living—to "acclimatize" her to the wilderness and distill the city from her system. At this point, though, stuff like going "walkabout" and catching camels has to sound pretty ridiculous.
I stared at you. You could have been joking, or saying something to scare me. But I don't think you were. You had that faraway look in your eye, the look when your eyes went a bit misty and it seemed as if you were looking out even further than the horizon. Just at that moment, I wasn't scared of you. Right then you looked like a kind of explorer, looking out over the land, planning where to go. (13.42)
It's interesting how Ty's connection to the land makes him less frightening to Gemma. Where Gemma only sees endless sand, he seems to see life and speak a language with nature that she can't understand.
"This sand is the oldest in the world," you said. "Even the land I sit on now has taken billions of years to form, worn down from the mountains."
"Once there was a range near here higher than the Andes. This is ancient land, sacred, it's seen everything there is to see." (13.49-51)
Ty doesn't just see the wilderness of Australia as a cool place to spend some time—he actually seems to see it as part of his heritage. The land has evolved and eroded to the point where it is today so he can live within it.
"The sand's like a womb," you said. "Warm and soft and safe."
You buried your other hand, too. Your shoulders relaxed, and your body went still […] After a few moments you slipped off your boots, and stuck your feet under the sand, too. With all your limbs buried in like that, it was as if the sand had sprouted you. (13.54-55)
Ty's analogy of the sand being a womb fits in an interesting way with his notion that the land can make Gemma into a new person. The image of him growing out of the sand seems to back this up, with the wilderness creating new life from below the surface.
For the first time, I wondered how you'd found that place. Were there really no other people anywhere? Was it really just us? Perhaps any explorers had given up halfway, or died. There was something astonishing about being able to survive in that land. It seemed more like another planet than earth. (18.6)
Gemma seems to grasp here that it's Ty's intimate knowledge of the land and love for it that makes it possible for him to survive. He's able to see below a surface of sand and emptiness to the life underneath and connect with it.
"The land wants you here. I want you here," you called. "Don't you care about that at all?" (69.34)
Ty's connection with the land is so tight that he can speak for what it wants—and in this case, it wants Gemma. Or maybe he does. Of course, there's the possibility that he's delusional and trying to make an excuse to keep her there, but as a human, he definitely seems to connect with the desert in a way that people typically can't.
"This is what I want to show you," you explained. "The beauty of this land. You need to see how you're a part of it." Your eyes were shining blue amid the orange. They seemed out of place, too, much like the sea. (76.3)
Ultimately, Ty's kidnapping plot seems to be for the purpose of showing Gemma that there's more to life than Josh, Ben, London, and her parents' meaningless jobs. The natural beauty he exposes her to leaves Gemma changed to the point where she longs for it even after she returns to her normal life.
Your eyes were flicking nervously all over the place, not always able to meet my gaze. That edginess made you seem shy, made me like you even more. But there was still something about you, hovering in my memory. (1.39)
Ever have that creepy experience of meeting someone and wondering if you know them from somewhere? Try having it happen with a guy who abducts you. We later find out that Gemma's eerie recognition of Ty is more than just déjà vu.
My cheek was burning up beneath your touch. My jaw was set hard as I looked back at you. But I did remember. And that made it worse. I remembered laughing as you tilted and angled something on my head. I remembered the clothes, your back. I remembered how badly I'd wanted to kiss you. I shut my eyes. (8.61)
Gemma's vague memories of acting complicit in Ty's plan to abduct her kind of seem like those of someone who partied a little too hard and then woke up the next morning regretting it. She wasn't expecting to get drugged, but imagine the horror of realizing she recalls bits of the incident that changed her life—and that she just went along with Ty's plan.
It was so big, that view. I'll never remember it perfectly. How can anyone remember something that big? I don't think people's brains are designed for memories like that. They're designed for things like phone numbers, or the color of someone's hair. Not hugeness. (13.7)
Gemma's thoughts on memory and the vastness of the landscape kind of sound related to her limited experience. Obviously the desert is Ty's home, so he might feel differently than she does in this passage, but as someone who has grown up in the city where huge landscapes aren't exactly a thing, it makes sense that her brain might not be ripe for processing it.
Then I'd remember.
I'd start with waking up, with the feel of my thick down duvet around my shoulders and the softness of flannel pajamas on my skin. If I concentrated, I could almost hear the whir and grind of Mum making her morning coffee. I smelled the bitter richness of the grains boiling on the stove, the way the aroma used to waft under the crack in the door and into my bedroom. (25.4-5)
There's something really scary about Gemma being on the other side of the world in the middle of nowhere and being struck with memories of home, almost like where she's from doesn't even seem real. She can recall the sensory details of her home, but ultimately they fade when she realizes where she really is.
I tried for Mum next, but even she was hard to see. I could remember her red dress, which she liked wearing to gallery openings, but I couldn't remember her face. I knew her eyes were green, like mine, and her features delicate … but somehow, I couldn't put the pieces back together.
It frightened me, this amnesia, and I hated myself for it. I felt like I wasn't worthy of being anyone's daughter. (25.6-7)
It has to be pretty horrifying to not only be kidnapped and taken from your home but then gradually realize you're forgetting the people there who meant the most to you. Gemma's guilt is probably a slight exaggeration, but it makes sense that she would blame herself for not holding onto memories hard enough.
I searched my memory, trying to find your face anywhere in it. There was nothing specific, but there were hazy, half-remembered things; like the man my friends saw once waiting outside the school gates, and that time in the park when I thought I saw someone watching in the bushes … the way Mum was paranoid about someone following her home. Was that you, I wondered? Had you been watching me that long? (30.46)
It seems like the more Gemma is around Ty, the more she remembers his appearances in her past. There's something scary about how she has a history with the guy who abducted her and is only gradually remembering it.
I slid down the wall, once again shocked by what you knew about me. Your eyes were searching into mine, refusing to believe that I couldn't remember. You spoke slowly, as if by doing so you were forcing the memory into my head. (37.22)
Ty seems almost bent on getting Gemma to remember his brief appearances in her life. In a way, it's like he's trying to exert control over her memories—having showed up throughout her childhood, he now wants her to own those recollections.
Like that, half-asleep, edges of memories came: Anna's face when she first told me she was going out with Ben, Mum arriving through the door with takeout for dinner, Josh asking me on a date. (46.1)
Gemma's mind seems to be at war with itself, both trying to keep memories from home alive and recall what Ty says about having been in her past. What's funny is that both seem distant to her, as though recalling memories is made more difficult by her ordeal.
A photograph fell out, too, landing in my lap. I picked it up. It was faded and old, slightly crumpled around the edges. It was of a girl, about my age, holding a baby tight to her chest. She was staring boldly at the camera, as if challenging the person taking it. I gasped a little as I studied her long dark hair and green eyes. She looked a little like me. (48.32)
The photograph of Ty's mom is a reminder that while Gemma might be trying to deal with memories of Ty's presence at home, he has his own baggage to deal with. Having been abandoned by his mom both as a child and an adult, this picture pretty much has to be all Ty has left. And then, there's the creepy reality that Gemma looks a lot like her. Ugh.
"Is that when you found me?" I asked quietly. "Back in London, after you couldn't find your mum?"
You didn't answer. Instead you stomped across the veranda and jumped down into the sand. You threw a punch at your punching bag then crouched over into yourself and threw several more […] Then you slammed both arms against the bag and headed out to the Separates […] Sometime later, from inside the rocks, I heard the echo of a sound that could have been your scream. (48.50-51)
Gemma might be struggling to keep memories of home alive, but Ty has genuine anguish from his own past and it's pretty clear that his plot to abduct Gemma is part of that. Maybe it's because she reminds him of his mom or maybe it's just because she represents the purity and innocence that was stolen from his own childhood. Either way, this guy has serious issues.
"So," you murmured. "What is it you want to do, then? Get a job like your dad? Travel like your mom?"
I shrugged. "That's what they'd like. I don't know. Nothing really seems right."
"Not … meaningful enough?"
"Yeah, maybe. I mean, they just collect stuff. Dad collects other people's money and Mum collects people's drawings. What do they really do that's theirs?" (1.40-43)
Ooh, burn. Not only does Gemma have a ton of contempt for her parents' work, she sees it as having little meaning or significance. And yet, that's what they seem to expect from her as she chooses a career path.
You must have thought of everything: a ticket, a new passport, our route through, how to get past security. Was it the most carefully planned steal ever, or just luck? It can't have been easy to have got me through Bangkok airport and onto a different plane without anyone knowing, not even me. (2.10)
Ty doesn't just break the law when he takes Gemma—he blows it up, violating just about every rule in place at airports for safety and identification. So much for rigid security measures.
I felt a brief glimmer of hope anyway, a stirring that maybe everything would be okay. Australia was a civilized country, with a law system and police and a government. People could be looking for me already, police hunting me out. The whole nation might be on alert. Then the glimmer faded. You'd taken me from Bangkok. Who'd guess to look for me in Australia? (8.23)
It's interesting that Australia as a "civilized country" speaks to Gemma's sense of justice. In this moment, the vast wilderness that scared her so much doesn't seem to matter—she's in a nation that has law enforcement and will handle her situation. Until, at least, she realizes no one knows to look for her there. Oops.
Then Dad was up and banging on my door. He always lectured me over breakfast, about getting good grades and about which universities I should start looking at in the summer. (25.5)
Dude, we feel really badly for Gemma's parents and the ordeal they have to go through because she disappears, but her dad needs to take a chill pill. You probably know as well as anyone that getting nagged to do well in school and apply to college doesn't really do any good.
"They took me to the city, shoved me in the back of a truck […] They took me to this kids' home place. They gave me a room without a window, bursting with other kids. They wanted my name but I wouldn't tell them; I wouldn't tell them anything. So they called me Tom […] for a few months. They decided how I was, what I was going to wear. Because I didn't speak to them, they tried to make me a different person." (31.51-53)
No wonder Ty hates authority so much: While the social workers who took him to the city were only following the law, they nonetheless did a ton of damage to him by ripping him away from his home.
"Each day your parents pushed you into being more like them," you continued, "pushed you into a meaningless life. You didn't want that, I know you didn't."
"What do you know about my parents?" I shouted.
You blinked again. "Everything." (37.47-49)
Ty may be slightly exaggerating when he says he knows "everything" about Gemma's parents, but one thing's for sure—what we observe of them and what she tells us definitely reveal that they're committed to a certain social order. The fact that she's an only child probably doesn't help, either. Hello, high expectations.
"You know I'm right," you said. "Your parents are assholes. Their main concern is making money, making their house look like something out of a magazine, and getting mentioned in the society pages. They were molding you all the way, too, training you to be a little version of them. I saved you from that." (37.71)
Calling Gemma's parents a-holes is probably a little strong, but again, they do seem to be pressuring Gemma to accept their values system and rules. If anything, maybe this experience will help Gemma see that she has other options besides pursuing banking or buying other people's paintings.
I tried keeping my voice casual, trying a different tactic. "You know, I can get help for you, or money. Dad knows people, lots of people … doctors, lawyers …"
You didn't let me finish. You were up in a second. "You think that's what I want?" (37.121-122)
One thing's for certain: A major difference between Gemma and Ty is that she's been brought up from birth in the realm of conventional society and order, while he's grown up seeing this same society and order as the enemy. So, when she gives Ty advice about getting help, she of course does so within that frame of reference, unaware that doctors and lawyers will have absolutely no value or significance to Ty.
"He's not a monster," I said quietly.
Mum's hands went stiff around the sheets as she looked sharply at me. "That man is evil," she hissed. "Why else would he have taken you from us?" (98.17-18)
What's really funny is that at this point in the book, Gemma's mom is thinking the same thing we initially did about Ty—that he's a criminal who's up to no good. Npw, having spent the whole book in Australia with him and Gemma, we feel this odd compulsion to defend him, even though we still can't agree with his actions. Still, Gemma's mom is operating within the boundaries of the norms of the law and only sees him as dangerous.
[Dr. Donovan] looked at me carefully, raising an eyebrow. "Whatever he did," she continued softly, "whatever Mr. MacFarlane did or said to you, you know he hasn't done the right thing, don't you, Gemma?"
"You sound like my mum," I said.
"Is that so bad?" (100.22-24)
Obviously, Ty did not do the "right thing" by abducting Gemma. Still, Dr. Donovan's absolute failure to listen to Gemma's side of the story demonstrates how rigidly she adheres to the dominance of law and order. To her, there is only right and wrong, with little room for nuanced understanding.
You saw me before I saw you. In the airport, that day in August, you had that look in your eyes, as though you wanted something from me, as though you'd wanted it for a long time. No one had ever looked at me like that before, with that kind of intensity. It unsettled me, surprised me, I guess. Those blue, blue eyes, icy blue, looking back at me as though I could warm them up. They're pretty powerful, you know, those eyes, pretty beautiful, too. (1.1)
Before he even says a word to her (or puts anything in her drink), Ty seems to have power over Gemma. The way he looks at her immediately gives him control, making her curious and oddly enticed by him.
I turned to see you walking back, smoothly avoiding all the coffee-carrying passengers who stepped out in front of you. You didn't look at any of them. Only me. Perhaps that's why nobody else seemed to notice. You moved too much like a hunter, padding silently next to the row of plastic plants as you made your line toward me. (1.22)
The language here—comparing Ty to a predator—shows that he's completely bent on accomplishing his mission with Gemma. He stands out from the crowd because he moves like he has an objective.
My ear went hot as you brushed against it. Then your fingers moved down to my chin. You pushed it up with your thumb to look at me, almost like you were studying me in the artificial lights above my head. And, I mean, you really looked at me … with eyes like two stars. You trapped me there like that, kept me stuck to that spot of Bangkok airport as though I were something small drawn to the light. And I had wings fluttering inside me all right. Big, fat moth wings. You trapped me easily, drew me toward you like I was already in the net. (1.60)
So, at this point, we readers are collectively screaming for Gemma to throw her coffee in this dude's face and run like hell. Still, she's too drawn to him and the attention he's giving her to think about the fact that he might be dangerous. As unstable as he is, Ty knows how to manipulate her feelings to get her to open up to him.
My breath faltered for a second then. I don't know why, but I'd half expected you to be someone else. I didn't want the person standing there, beside the bed, to have the same face I'd found so attractive at the airport. But you were there all right: the blue eyes, blondish hair, and tiny scar. Only you didn't look beautiful this time. Just evil. (3.9)
All that changes, though, when they get to Australia. Ty transforms before her eyes. She realizes that he's not the hot guy who bought her coffee anymore but someone more powerful and dangerous.
I stopped and changed directions, but you were like a cowboy with his rope, circling me, stopping me everywhere I wanted to go. You were drawing me in, running me down. You knew it was only a matter of time before I couldn't run any farther. Like a crazed cow, I kept going anyway, running away from you in decreasing circles. I had to stop eventually. (4.20)
Part of the power Ty has over Gemma is that he knows the land—and also knows that Gemma doesn't have the skills to survive there on her own. He does have the skills, though, and knows that even if she gets away, she'll have to come back in order to live. As the single source of meeting her needs, Ty is her only option.
Nothing worked. Everything came back to you. You lying there. You dreaming. You thinking about me. I pictured you on that mess of blankets, eyes wide-open and imagining how you'd kill me. Perhaps you had touched yourself and pretended it was me doing it. Or perhaps you had your eye pressed up close to a crack in the wall, watching me waiting for you. Perhaps it gave you a kick. (9.4)
Gemma may try to think about home as a way to escape from reality, but Ty even has power over her thoughts, making her wonder if he's plotting to kill her, fantasizing about her, or fantasizing about killing her.
You were the strongest man I'd ever seen. If you decided to, you could kill me so easily. Just a little push from your hands and I'd be strangled; just a little punch and my brain would explode. There'd be nothing I could do. One blunt knife under a mattress was no match against you. (33.4)
Gemma has no way to fight back against Ty's brute strength, and the physical power of his body only makes him more terrifying and her situation more hopeless.
There was a snake. You were stretching toward it, trying to get a grip, then leaping backward when it went for you […] You darted toward the snake, confusing it, and grabbed underneath its head. The snake writhed, tried to turn its pink, wide mouth toward you. But your grip was firm. (65.11-12)
We all know that a snake eventually brings down Ty's whole plan, but in the meantime, he has power over this dangerous animal. He knows it has the ability to hurt him, and yet he seems relatively unconcerned, exercising his strength over it.
There were so many thoughts in my head right then, so many emotions. Your hand was close and tight around my elbow, guiding me straight. Some small part of me almost liked it there. I blinked, shaking my head, not wanting to admit it. A part of me was starting to accept you. I wondered, if I gave in to that part, if I leaned into you in return, where would it lead? (77.8)
The obvious interpretation here is that Gemma is thinking about whether giving in to Ty would lead to a sexual relationship, but we think it might go beyond that. Gemma is probably concerned about whether accepting Ty would give him total control over her and make her lose her will to stop fighting.
I shivered suddenly. "The sisters can never get away from him, then?"
"True." You tucked my blanket tight around my shoulders. "But they'll never be caught, either. He's just behind them, always watching … wanting them. He chases them all around the world. You could have seen him chasing them in London, if you'd been looking." (77.51-52)
The story Ty tells about the constellation of the sisters escaping their persecutor is an eerie analogy for Ty's obsession with Gemma. He has, in fact, chased her all around the world in their journey to Australia—and if Gemma had been keeping her eyes open, she would have known he was in London, too.
"I've never been to Vietnam," you said eventually.
"Or me. I'd rather go to America."
"Really? All those cities, those people?" (1.56-58)
Hey, Ty—watch it. Americans aren't so bad. Seriously, though, this is our first clue that Ty and Gemma have differing perspectives in terms of what location they would most like to live in.
I wrapped my arms around me as tightly as I could, and stared up at the stars. Had I not been so cold and wanting to escape so badly, I could have stared at them forever: They were amazingly beautiful, so bright and dense. My eyes could get lost in them. Back home I was lucky if I even saw the stars at night, what with all the pollution and city lights, but in the desert, I couldn't miss them. They swallowed me up. (19.5)
Being in the middle of nowhere does have its perks, we suppose—like getting a full-on view of the stars. It's an astonishing contrast from Gemma's home in the city, and she's never experienced anything like it.
"At least there are no cities," you said finally. "Out here … no concrete."
"I like cities."
Your fingers tightened around the railings. "No one's real in a city," you snapped. "Nothing's real." (30.29-31)
Ty's contempt for cities and the fake people that inhabit them might be correct in some cases. Still, a lot of these feelings probably come from his abrupt exposure to the city as a child, being taken from the wilderness farm where he felt comfortable and forced to be somewhere different.
"Once Dad found the city, and all the rest of it, that was it.… The farm didn't recover. He forgot about the land, forgot about me, too […] We stayed like that awhile. Then one day Dad just didn't come back from the city." (31.42)
Ty's other problem with cities comes from his dad abandoning him and choosing to go to one and be irresponsible rather than be a dad. Again, not all city people are hooked on booze and gambling, though it's definitely more prevalent than it would be in, say, Ty's desert compound. Nonetheless, Ty's traumatic childhood causes him to make serious judgments about cities as locations.
"They found out my name," you snapped. "After awhile, they figured Mum had gone overseas and Dad had died in a pub. By then the farm had been carved up for his debts." You were still glaring at me, gripping the couch until it started to creak. "Nobody knew who I was," you added. "Not really. When I went to the city, my whole life started again, from the dirt up." (31.58)
Just in case you can't tell, when Ty says that about his life starting over again, he doesn't mean it in a good way. Getting taken to the children's home wrecked his entire world, and he lost everything he'd known due to his dad's reckless behavior.
You let my arm fall to one side. "Were you really happy in the city?" […] You backed off a step. "I'm only asking," you said. "Did you really have a perfect life? Do you really miss it … your parents, your friends, any of it?" (37.66-68)
Ty doesn't seem to consider the fact that Gemma would be happy in a city because it's all she's ever known. In his mind, she's been living someplace evil where her whole life is being carved out for her.
It was nothing like being in England. When Dad drove us west for two hours last year we'd ended up in Wales, another country. But there, in the desert, two hours was like driving further into fire. The more we drove, the hotter and redder it became and the more I feared I'd never be able to get out. (40.3)
The United Kingdom is a collection of interconnected countries—you can drive from one to another just like you can drive from one state to another here in America—but the desert is a collection of interconnected sand and rocks, with no societal divisions whatsoever. Gemma expects to eventually come to something because that's the way travel is back home, but it's not going to happen here.
"Listen," you said.
"To what? There's nothing."
"There is. Maybe not shopping centers and cars, but other things … buzzing insects, racing ants, a slight wind making the tree creak, there's a honeyeater up there, scuttling around, and the camels are coming." (41.16-18)
One of the things that disturbs Gemma so much in her initial days in captivity is the silence. Ty, however, shows her that it's not dead quiet—there's just a different kind of noise. As someone who's spent most of his life there, he notices these things. Imagine how shocking the noise of the city must have been to him when he was taken there as a child.
"That's the city—everyone loves to pretend. Especially the rich. Anyway, it's easy to be what people want: give them something to stare at, nod and smile, tell them they're gorgeous." You flashed your best charming grin before you added, "The three steps to money." (50.43)
We've already talked a lot about how Ty's problems with the city largely come from his childhood—but, in a way, this statement is right on. Don't we all pretend? Don't we all think that getting what we want is the secret to happiness? Gemma's parents definitely seem to. We don't get much of a look into their lives in this book, but if we did, we have the feeling we'd find they're actually pretty unhappy people.
"Out here things pretend to be dead, Gem. It's their survival tactic. Underneath, they're bursting with life. Nearly all of a desert plant's growth is below the soil […] I guess it's a bit like us in the city, or the city itself … dead to look at, but underneath, it's tingling." (53.8)
After spending a lot of the story haranguing against the city's fakery and noise, Ty makes a surprising statement when he actually says that they are alike, with life under the surface trying to get out. On the other hand, though, he also seems to be making a statement about himself and his general situation with Gemma. What looks like a kidnapping (and still is, but you know what we mean) is actually a reaction to a traumatic childhood and a desire to show a city girl that there is more to life than what she's experienced.
When I woke, I was back in the double bed with a cool, damp bandage around my wrist. I was no longer wearing the jeans. My feet were tied to the bedposts with hard, scratchy rope. There were bandages wrapped around them, too. I pulled away, testing how tightly I was tied, and gasped as pain shot up my legs. (6.1)
And just like that, Gemma wakes up to find that she's become a character in a Stephen King novel. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but seriously—getting tied to a bed isn't exactly on our bucket list.
"It's not your escape route, if that's what you're wondering. Your only escape route is through me. And that's bad luck for you, I guess, since I've already made my escape by coming here." (7.34)
Ty's plan is pretty twisted. Kidnapping someone and taking her to a place where she can't run away and has to go through him to break out is pretty foolproof. Well, until snakes get involved, at least.
I found the darkest, coolest part of the house—in the corner of the living room, next to the fireplace. Then I sat and tried to think of ways to escape. I wouldn't let myself give up. I knew if I did, that would be it. I might as well be dead already. (12.5)
Even if escape seems impossible, thinking about it is how Gemma attempts to survive her ordeal. Giving in to the desperation of her situation in captivity will only kill her mentally—and possibly physically, too.
You tried talking to me when you returned, but it didn't work too well. You can't blame me. Every time you even looked at me I stiffened, my breathing quickening. When you spoke, I wanted to scream. But I gave myself little challenges. One time, I made myself watch you. The next time I asked you a question. By the thirteenth night, I forced myself to eat with you. (12.6)
Let us break this down for you: Gemma has been kidnapped, and the only person around for hundreds of miles is the guy who did it. She has to live in a house with him, and getting away isn't an option. We can't blame her for the panic she's experiencing as a result.
I went back to the main clearing, but the other paths out of that were no better, either. I just got more lost, tangled up in the maze of the Separates. I don't know how long I spent trying to get out […] But one thing I did know, you hadn't followed me. Not yet. I clung desperately to the hope that you thought I'd run somewhere else. (16.18)
Gemma has to know on some level that going through the Separates isn't like going through the wardrobe to Narnia; she's not going to end up somewhere else on the other side. Still, the temporary victory of getting away from Ty is enough to make her see it as a good thing.
My body and my brain and my insides had frozen solid and nothing would thaw them. I had slipped down, down into a dark, dark, empty place. You were saying something to me, your voice muted. I didn't want to surface. The truth was too hard to hear. (20.1)
Psychologically, the isolation of her captivity is the hardest thing for Gemma to deal with. For her, it isn't just about having been kidnapped—it's about being taken somewhere with no other people around. It's a totally unfamiliar setting for her to find herself in.
I leaned a little toward you. "So they kind of stole you, too," I said softly. I kept my nerve and held your gaze. Your eyes turned to slits. You knew exactly what I meant. They'd stolen you, just as you'd stolen me. (31.60)
The realization that her captor has been through a similar experience to her own is shocking for Gemma—and for us as readers. If Ty was stolen away from his dad's farm as a child and taken somewhere totally different, shouldn't that have deterred him from doing the same thing to someone else? We can't say for sure, but it's possible that in taking Gemma to Australia, Ty is trying to make right (in his own twisted way) what was done to him as a boy.
I moved around so I could look at her face. Even scared, she had beautiful eyes. Dark and brown with soft-looking eyelashes. She stopped searching for her herd to glance at me.
"You're trapped now, too," I told her. "Don't bother thinking of escape. He'll only come after you." (43.19-20)
Once the abduction of the camel occurs, Gemma often likens the camel's experiences to her own. And really, they're pretty similar. Ty keeps both of them confined and tries to acclimate them to their new surroundings so they will eventually accept him. The comparison certainly isn't lost on us. Don't believe us? Swing by the "Symbols" section.
The cluster of buildings got smaller as I drove, and eventually, I couldn't even see your figure in the mirror anymore. I started to scream then, but God knows what I was saying. I'd done it! I was out there, alone … without you. Without anyone. I was free. (55.2)
Imagine the thrill of driving away and leaving Ty and his chamber of horrors in the dust after being held there for weeks. Gemma may not have processed the fact that there really is nothing out there, but that isn't the point—in her mind, she has escaped and thwarted Ty.
Our full-service apartment feels like a prison, too, with its gray colors and cleanliness; the way I can't leave it without someone taking my picture. From its windows I stare out at the city … at the concrete and buildings, cars and suits. Some days I imagine the land that lives beneath it all, red and dormant; the land you love. Then my mind drifts to the desert; to the open spaces of color and pattern. I miss it, that endlessness. (106.4)
Here's the really interesting part: When she's returned to civilization, Gemma sees it with completely new eyes. Specifically, she sees it as a place of confinement—even though it represents freedom. She finds herself wanting to return to the beauty of the place where she was held prisoner. In other words, regardless of the legality of his actions, Ty has given Gemma a new experience and new outlook on the world. In a way, she is having the same experience he had when he was taken from the wilderness and brought to the city as a boy.
"Why am I here?" I whispered.
You patted your pockets, then pulled out a box of matches. You gestured toward the rocks.
"Because it's magic, this place … beautiful. And you're beautiful … beautifully separate. It all fits." (7.45-47)
What Ty is saying here makes more sense on a second read-through, but we wouldn't be surprised if your initial reaction to this is, "Uh-huh, Ty. Sure. Whatever." In his warped mind, though, it makes total sense: Gemma is uniquely beautiful and needs to be rescued.
"I've got skirts and a dress or two. They're in the other room. They're green."
I narrowed my eyes. Green was my favorite color. How did you know all this? Did you know all this? (8.13-14)
Dude—he knows her favorite color. That's messed up. And we don't even want to know how he got that information.
You opened the cabinet and showed me the games on the lowest shelf: UNO, Connect Four, Guess Who?, Twister. They were all games we'd had at home, games I could remember playing with friends, or on Christmas mornings with my parents. But these versions were faded and old, as if they'd come from consignment shops. (8.18)
Again, it's obvious that Ty has been watching Gemma's family and observing their habits, including what games they play. We don't actually see it happen in the book, but maybe he hoped to use the games as something familiar to acclimate Gemma to being with him.
"How long had you been planning it?"
You shrugged. "Awhile, two or three years. But I'd been watching you for longer than that."
"About six years."
"Since I was ten? You've been watching me since then?"
You nodded. "On and off." (30.39-44)
Yeah … We'll just leave this here: "Every breath you take, every move you make, I'll be watching you."
It sounded weird to hear you talk so much; normally, you only said a few words at a time. I'd never imagined that you'd have a story, too. Until that moment, you were just the kidnapper. You didn't have reasons for anything. You were stupid and evil and mentally ill. That was all. When you started talking, you started changing. (31.18)
Let's be real. Even though Gemma's attitude toward Ty changes, he most likely still isn't mentally sound in some way. Let's go back to the idea that no matter how wrong the kidnapping is, Ty honestly feels and believes that he's doing the right thing. Typically, a loss of definition between right and wrong indicates some kind of instability.
"Who says I'm not Superman?" You were looking at me with one eye closed against the sun. I shrugged.
"You would have rescued me by now if you were Superman," I said quietly.
"Who says I haven't?"
"Anyone would say you haven't."
"Anyone's just looking at it wrong, then." You pushed yourself up a little, onto your elbows. "Anyway, I can't steal you and rescue you. That would give me multiple personalities."
"And you don't have them already?" I muttered. (41.23-28)
Is it possible that Ty really has both stolen and rescued her? Perhaps he has delusions of grandeur in saying he's a superhero, but he actually might be on target without even realizing it. This book is all about shades of gray.
"Why do I recognize you?"
"I told you, I've been following you."
"That's just creepy."
I leaned forward on the couch. "But I recognize you, too. And that's creepier. Why?"
You smiled. "I lived nearby." (46.6-11)
Okay. He stalked Gemma and her family, memorized her favorite things, and then moved near her. Maybe this all makes sense in Ty's mind, but the whole thing is pretty deranged.
But you heard. Your face was right beside the window, your hands pressing against the glass and clawing at the door, your eyes hard. I pushed the accelerator farther down […]
"Gemma, don't do this," you were shouting, your voice firm and commanding. "You can't do this." (54.12-13)
Ty sounds like an animal bent on catching his prey as he tries to get Gemma to stop the car. Clearly, his obsession with her is so great that it inspires this kind of desperate behavior.
You were naked. But you were so covered with paint and sand, flowers and leaves, that I didn't notice right away. The paint and textures covered you like clothes. Your face was a light red color with orange and yellow dots and swirls all over it. Your lips were dark brown. A gray, granite texture covered your legs […] You looked crazy like that, but beautiful, too. (76.2)
Is Ty's art and painting of his body a part of his peculiar personality or his madness? We don't really know, but regardless, Gemma sees something in it that points to him being someone who's passionate and expressive.
Mum shook her head. "He must be mad. It'll never hold up. The police have witnesses, video evidence from the airport, and you, of course. How can he even think to plead not guilty?" She shook her head again, annoyed. "It just proves that he's insane." (102.17)
Gemma's mom's reaction to Ty shows that madness is really a relatively term. The guy took her daughter, so it makes sense that her mind would go to insanity as a reason. But, it returns us to one of the core debates of this book: Is Ty really nuts? Or is he genuinely just trying to do something good for Gemma based on his own childhood horrors?
"I mean, they just collect stuff. Dad collects other people's money and Mum collects people's drawings. What do they really do that's theirs?" (1.43)
There's something about buying other people's art without creating any of your own that comes across to Gemma—and us—as kind of shallow. And she hasn't even seen Ty's outbuilding art gallery yet.
I'd never seen a man cry before, only on TV. I'd never seen Dad close to crying. Those tears looked so odd on you. It was like the strength of you just seemed to sap away. The surprise of it stopped me being so scared. I took a deep breath and looked away. The walls were painted in large streaks of color. There were bits of plants, leaves, and sand stuck to them. (15.7)
The tears have more to do with Ty's emotional attachment to his art than anything else. It's interesting how his reaction shocks Gemma on a level that speaks to what she looks down on in her parents. Unlike her dad, Ty shows emotion, while he obviously cares about art on a level beyond just collecting and consuming it.
"You're sitting in my painting," you said at last. You leaned forward and touched a leaf. "I made all this." You moved your hand along the edge, stroking the sand. "There were patterns and shapes, made from the land.… " Your face went rigid and angry as you surveyed the damage I'd done. Eventually you shrugged, sighing as your shoulders dropped down. "But you created a different pattern, I guess.… In a way, it's almost better. You're part of it." (15.9)
It's funny how Gemma ruining the painting kind of becomes an object lesson for what Ty's trying to teach her about having a relationship with the land. He tells her later that she needs to see how she's part of the landscape. Here, she literally is.
You sat, folding your bare legs in front of you. You took a paintbrush from behind the rocks, dipped it into a rusty-colored paste, and started painting your foot. You painted long thin lines, making your skin like the texture of tree bark. You frowned as you focused. (37.11)
Ty's thing with painting his body is kind of bizarre, but he seems to see it as a crucial part of his relationship with the land. He may intimately live within it, but his art helps him to become it.
You didn't let me finish. You were up in a second. "You think that's what I want?" Your voice cracked. Then you pointed the paintbrush at me. "Do your hand now," you said firmly. It wasn't a request. You pushed a saucer of brown-earth paint toward me. I saw the pulse in your throat throbbing, your jaw tense. "Paint yourself. Now." (37.122)
In the paragraph that comes before this, Gemma suggests that she talk to her dad and get Ty some help from a lawyer or doctor. Ty's reaction is to force her to paint her hand. It's as if he recognizes that she buys into the culture she comes from and wants to assimilate her into his culture of the land. And, um, from the looks of his jaw, resistance is futile.
"Like my painting?" you said.
"What is it?"
"Everything around us. The land." You grinned. "It's not finished yet. Every bit of wall will be part of it; me, too."
"I want to capture this, all this beauty, I want to connect … I want you to see everything the way it is before … while you're here." (74.5-9)
Unlike Gemma's mom's consumption of art, Ty sees creation as a way to directly connect with the land he's portraying, a way to become intimately involved with it. While we're pretty sure he was doing this before Gemma got there, we also think he's using the artwork to help her understand the beauty of the wilderness.
All around me was color and sparkle, almost too much to take in. You'd worked quickly, transforming the space. You stood in the middle of it all, your painted body reflecting the light also. Your back was the only part of you not painted. There was a strong herbal smell, like the smell your roll-ups gave out. It was heavy and intoxicating. (76.1)
Ty's masterpiece sounds like it was ripped out of Woodstock. What Gemma is so intoxicated by is the fact that the painting is so interactive—it engages the senses on a deep level that she's likely never experienced before.
As the sun set further, the colors became more vivid. A red washed over everything, brightening the darker sections in the painting. Shafts of light lit up the floor, illuminating the millions of painted dots and flower petals there. Reds and oranges and pinks intensified all around us, until it felt like we were sitting in the middle of a burning pit of fire … or in the middle of the sunset itself. (76.33)
Whoa. Ty's art literally comes to life in the sunset. We'd like to see Gemma's mom's art acquisitions do that.
I turned my head and tried to take in all of the painting at once. My head was reeling a little; from the colors and the light, or your cigarette, I don't know. That room was so different from all the other paintings I'd see with Mum, so much more real somehow. And yes, I admit it; it was beautiful. Wildly beautiful. Your fingers traced patterns on my arm: circles and dots. The touch of them didn't scare me anymore. (76.38)
This is what we think supports the argument that Gemma doesn't actually have Stockholm syndrome but genuinely connects with Ty. Her experience with the sunset painting opens her eyes to who Ty really is—not a scary kidnapper who fantasizes about hurting her but a creative, passionate person who wants to reveal to her the beauty of his land.
And then I realized something else: I knew what you'd been doing, all this time, in your outbuilding in the desert. You'd been painting the land as it looked from above, just as a bird would see it or a spirit or me … your swirls and dots and circles drawing out the pattern of the land. (103.10)
As Gemma looks down at the desert from the plane, she doesn't see nothingness the way she would have before meeting Ty. Instead, she sees Ty's paintings. What probably would have looked like sand, sand, and more sand several weeks ago now looks beautiful and reminds her of him.