The Teddy Bear Chronicles (Saved in Paris)
by Donnalyn Vojta
When Kelly met the roughly handsome and intensely charming Mark, she was impressed with more than just his fancy education and the flashy job that came with a substantial paycheck. Mark Flannery was doting, seemed genuinely interested in her, and over the first few weeks of their whirlwind romance, thoroughly embedded himself into the very seams of her life. Coming from a broken home that involved an emotionally and verbally abusive mother and a sister who abandoned her, Kelly wasn’t mentally aware of how much she was searching for something to fill the holes of her life. She yearned for someone to care for her in every aspect, for someone to truly nurture her spirit and to encourage her along her goals and dreams.
Luckily for Kelly, Mark slipped right into that role like a good pair of shoes. But soon enough, for Kelly, the dream of a life with a gorgeous and successful man turned into a nightmare.
It began with an obsession over her email correspondence. Endless questions about her cell phone texts. Interrogations over who she was friends with and what they discussed. Queries over where she was going. And then it slowly transitioned into Mark controlling what she was going to do with her life, insisting that he would pay for the entirety of her education as long as she chose a profession that was “especially befitting a woman.” He told her who she could be friends with and how often she could speak to those friends each month. He demanded that she be home at a certain time each evening to prepare him a handmade meal, not even lessening his grip on her life when her father passed away. Feeling trapped but uneasy at the prospect of going it alone , Kelly eventually put her aspirations of becoming an entrepreneur and business owner to the side, accepting Mark’s offer of financial stability while desperately trying to put the trepidation growing within about his controlling ways and instead, focusing on being thankful for the good things that he was bringing into her life and their relationship.
But as time passed things only got worse. Mark infiltrated her life like a seasoned war general, directing and managing her every waking minute. As Mark’s controlling ways eventually began to wear heavily on her, Kelly began to try and fight back — but her rebukes were met with his fists. Slaps, shoves, and swift kicks became the repercussion any time Kelly dared to contradict Mark or speak her own mind. Feeling angry and sometimes hopeless, Kelly decided to formulate a secret plan of escape — but she knew she had to be incredibly careful and strategic. She’d known for a while that Mark had a professional private investigator tailing her every move and so every step she took towards freedom had to be precise and perfect. She also didn’t put it past Mark to take his physical abuse to the next level. . . Kelly had her suspicions about a previous relationship Mark had where the girlfriend ended up rotting in a ditch with her throat slashed.
Little did Kelly know, she had an ally watching over her the whole time, someone who was monitoring her every move just like Mark but with good intentions instead of deviance. There was someone in Kelly’s life who felt joy when Kelly succeeded and felt pain when Kelly was hurt. Like a ray of sunshine peeking through a stubborn cloud, there was a friend observing Kelly right underneath her nose. A certain little teddy bear had been a constant companion to her since she met Mark, and unbeknownst to Kelly, the cute stuffed toy knew everything there was to know about her boyfriend — including the fact that he’s was only controlling, but also, that he was indeed a murderer.
Stowed lovingly in a carry-on bag, the toy accompanies Kelly as she spirits away in the dead of night all the way to Paris. Her teddy bear gives a honest account of Kelly’s palpable fear, intense relief, and also of bizarre coincidence and exalted reunion — all in a fresh and true voice. As a friend who can only be seen and not heard, Kelly’s teddy bear spins a story for readers from a one-sided perspective, allowing readers to come to their own conclusions as to why Kelly is doing what she is doing and what shadows lurk in the background. Readers will also be privy to two other character’s corresponding story lines, also told from the viewpoint of their teddy bear companions. All of the characters reach their climax in the enigmatic and magical City of Lights, and all three bears will find an individual end to their exhilarating adventures.
The Teddy Bear Chronicles is the debut novel by Chicago based author Donnalyn Vojta. A former litigation attorney, the author is now fully immersed in the world of writing by way of a station as an academic tutor and professional writer. The concept of a thriller being written entirely by the perspective of a group of teddy bears is singularly unique, and while the mystery and pace of the story ramps up, readers will be thankful for the comedic relief provided by the furry companions of each character.
Giving the novel 3 out of 5 stars, I have to commend the author on being so bold in her somewhat peculiar and unexpected choice of perspective. I have read 1000’s of books and not one has been told by way of a teddy bear; especially not a novel that is certainly for adults due to the subject matters of abuse, mental illness, and murder. I was unclear as to several of the character’s intentions at many parts of the novel, and I also felt that the characters at times did not behave or react in a realistic manner. The dialogue between characters at times appeared forced, especially given the nature of the relationship. I really enjoyed the character of Richard and his progression in the romance department; he was written in such a way as to be found endearing and sweet.