Book Reviews

Then She Was Gone

Author: Lisa Jewell
Publish Date: April 17, 2018 by Atria Books
Genre: Mystery / Domestic Suspense
Hardcover: 359 pages
My Rating: 4 stars

“More than a whiff of The Lovely Bones wafts through this haunting domestic noir from bestseller Jewell…Skillfully told by several narrators, Jewell’s gripping novel is an emotionally resonant story of loss, grief, and renewal.” (Publishers Weekly)

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 café, 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?

This is my second Lisa Jewell novel and she’s quickly becoming a go-to author for me. Her books are easy reading – what I like to call “popcorn reading”. They are light and absorbing to read, and can probably be read over a weekend – a real escapists dream. But it is also good writing and good story telling. Sandwiched between two other, very dark books I read, this was the perfect form of entertainment.

Jewell is a very astute observer of human nature and she finds new metaphors that describe the human condition as we all live it. When meeting Poppy for the first time, we see she is this nine year old self-possessed little girl, who has nothing in common with her peers; she’s wise beyond her years, but Laurel sees it not so much a sign of maturity, “but a sign that you’ve missed a whole set of steps on the road to maturity.”

Laurel is a mother with flaws. She attributes the break down of her first marriage to herself. As you can imagine, she shut down after her daughter disappeared. She stopped being a parent to her other children. What remained of her family, broke down. But years later, they are all rebuilding in the best way they know how.

Jewell has a knack for taking a common plot, but making it all her own. Reading the description, you may think “a missing daughter plot? I’ve read this before”, but Jewell puts her own unique spin on it. And how I do still love those OMG moments in books. Even though it’s been done a million times, I still love it, and there’s a great one here that you won’t see coming until it smacks you in the face! Add this one to your beach bag this summer!

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