Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
Atria Books: 4/17/18
eBook review copy; 368 pages
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell is a very highly recommended addictive novel of psychological suspense.
Ellie Mack was fifteen, the youngest of
three, and her mother's favorite when she disappeared in 2005. There
were never any clues and her case soon went cold. Laurel Mack's whole
life seemed to crumble after her daughter Ellie disappeared. Her
marriage with Paul ended and she became distant to her surviving
children, Hanna and Jake. When a final piece of evidence was discovered
ten years after her disappearance, Ellie is finally closed and Laurel is
trying to put her life back together, even though she still feels she
has no real answers as to what happened to Ellie.
When Laurel meets a charming man at a café, author Floyd Dunn, she is
surprised to find herself actually accepting a dinner invitation. As
their relationship becomes more serious, Laurel meets Floyd's daughters
and his youngest daughter, Poppy, takes her breath away because she so
resembles Ellie. When Laurel learns that Floyd’s former partner vanished
five years earlier after dumping Poppy with him, it brings back
unanswered questions and memories of Ellie's disappearance. But when
Laurel learns that Poppy's mother, Noelle Donnelly, was also Ellie's
math tutor, it seems to be too coincidental.
Then She Was Gone is a wonderful example of how excellent writing
and superb planning can elevate a psychological thriller to a perfect
rating. Will most readers figure out what likely happened to Ellie very
early on? Yes. Is the insight into the characters and the journey of
discovery more important than this one big puzzle piece? Oh, yes! Many
readers (and reviewers) of suspense novels can predict how a plot is
going to go, sometimes very early on in the novel. Personally, I believe
in this case Jewell acknowledges that truism and doesn't give a whit
about it. In fact she uses this detail and guessing/knowing is only
going to increase the suspense and deepen the mystery.
Part of the clever, skillful writing is found in the structure Jewell chose to present Then She Was Gone.
The novel is told by several narrators and is split into three parts.
The first part has chapters that alternate between the present day
events and ten years ago at the time of Ellie's disappearance. The
section begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. The first two sections are
primarily narrated by Laurel. The third section has several narrators
and those voices are in different time periods, past and present. The
structure keeps the pace quick. This, in turn, increases the tension and
the psychological suspense, while simultaneously building an uneasy
anxiety in the reader.
My review copy was courtesy of Atria Books via Netgalley