Tuesday, 4 December 2018
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
I really should avoid charity shops with the most tempting book shelves. Just yesterday I couldn't resist buying a couple of paperbacks to add to my ever-expanding stash of books to read. On a plus side, all the paperbacks I read go back to the charity shops or first to a friend with whom we share a passion for thrillers and ghost stories, and then to the charity shops.
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell was one such impulse purchase. I had this book for a while, and finally got to reading it. And finished in two days, it was utterly addictive.
The plot is shifting between the narrative taking place now and ten years earlier, when a 15-year-old girl Ellie simply vanishes on the way to the library.
She is her Mum's golden girl, with all the dreams and plans a girl of her age might have. She seems to have it all, a loving family, a handsome boyfriend, she is a bright student.
The trace goes cold, none of the searches and appeals on Crimewatch bring any results. Ellie has disappeared, and her family has no closure.
Since Ellie's disappearance, her mother Laurel is existing in the twilight. She cannot function properly, and neglects her other two children. The chasm between her husband and her is growing, and finally he moves away and finds another woman.
Children grow up and move out. Laurel's life is a mere existence. The food becomes a plain fuel for her, she doesn't care what she eats, it's all a matter of calories. She has her routines and chores, but she in a limbo.
Then one day, as she is sitting in a cafe, she meets a charming stranger. Floyd is American, with an intriguing background. He offers Laurel a taste of his carrot cake, and just like that, she is smitten.
Starting a new relationship, she is amazed at herself, how it transforms her outlook on life.
Floyd makes Laurel feel alive again. All too quickly they become lovers, and Laurel meets Floyd's 9-year-old daughter Poppy.
Poppy is precocious and pretty, and alarmingly a spitting image of Ellie.
The relationship between father and daughter is creepily Oedipal.
The secrets and skeletons in the closet become exposed.
Will Laurel ever find out what has happened to Ellie?
This is a gripping, creepy and disturbing story. The main plotline might be a little far fetched, and there were some technical questions about reproduction that I had.
It reminded me of the book I read last year - The Visitors (<---see my review).
You guess where the plot is going pretty early on, but you want to know why and how. The writing is strong, especially when it comes to the poignancy of mother's grief.
The characters are believable and multi-faceted, apart from the main villain, whose credibility raises questions. She obviously has mental issues, and that doesn't sit well with me. Why is it always people with mental health problems who are portrayed as psycopaths in thrillers? There is always a childhood trauma or tragedy behind, and I'm not overly keen on this dose of ersatz psychology.
It's a suspenseful psychological thriller that will hold your interest to the last page.