Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: Then She Was Gone

Summary: Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her.

And then she was gone.

Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a cafĂ©, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters—and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away.

Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl? -- Atria

I have been reading Lisa Jewell for much of my adult life. It's been interesting to follow her writing career. Initially, she wrote chick lit style books, albeit smart ones. However, now she is writing psychological thrillers/domestic dramas. I feel as if her writing trajectory has kind of mirrored my reading trajectory, and that's why she's an author whose books I hold near and dear to my heart!

Her latest novel is called THEN SHE WAS GONE, and I really, really enjoyed it. Ellie Mack is fifteen years old and pretty much the perfect daughter. She is a fantastic student and all-around great kid... until she goes missing one day on her way to the library. Her mother Laurel is devastated. Her marriage falls apart as does her relationships with her other two kids. Needless to say, the family is never the same.

Fast forward ten years and Laurel is trying to get her life together. After her daughter's remains are found and the burial is complete, Laurel meets Floyd, a man that's almost too good to be true, at a local cafe. They have an immediate connection and jump into a relationship. Laurel meets both of his daughters, but his youngest one, Poppy, looks so much like Ellie that she can hardly believe it!

While in many ways Laurel is moving on with her life, Poppy's resemblance to Ellie keeps drawing her back into those dark times. She needs an answer to what happened to Ellie. She wonders if Ellie did run away like the police believe, or was she taken under suspicious circumstances. As Ellie questions more about the situation, she also begins to question who Floyd really is and whether Poppy is somehow tied to Ellie....

I found THEN SHE WAS GONE to be a terrific suspense novel. I loved the mystery behind Ellie's disappearance, but I also enjoyed how Ms. Jewell tackled the effects that her disappearance had on the family, especially Laurel. The book was actually well-written on both fronts, the pacing was outstanding, and I think it will appeal to fans of psychological suspense books as well as literary family dramas.

One thing that brought this book to the next level for me was how the author decided to tell the story. The first two sections of the novel were Laurel's story. There were chapters that went back and forth between the present and the past when Ellie was a happy high school student. It also detailed her disappearance and how that event changed the entire dynamic of the family. The last section of the novel actually gave insight into some other characters in the book including Poppy's mother, Floyd, and even Ellie.

Even though I suspected what really happened to Ellie (I'm pretty sure I was supposed to given the clues!), I admit that I was rather shocked by how the novel ended. And I don't just mean one thing. There were a few twists and turns that I didn't see coming. I loved being both right and also surprised by a few things. I'd definitely say that I don't think many readers will figure out all the details surrounding Ellie's disappearance.

I highly recommend THEN SHE WAS GONE. It's a solid psychological thriller that will keep readers guessing, but it's also a smart portrayal of grief, family dynamics, and even hope.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

I love her writing! Glad to see this is another winner.

The Book Sage said...

I've never read any of her books. But I am seeing this all over the blogiverse. I might have to give it a try.