Ten year after her teenage daughter Ellie disappears, Laurel Mack begins dating a man whose youngest daughter Poppy reminds her eerily of Ellie. In Then She Was Gone, Lisa Jewell alternates flashbacks from around the time of Ellie’s disappearance with scenes of Laurel’s developing relationship with Floyd and his daughters. What happens to Ellie and the identity of the person responsible are easy enough to guess, as is the reason why Poppy reminds Laurel so much of Ellie. Jewell interjects just enough foreshadowing (if only Ellie did this or made that decision) and drops enough hints to keep the suspense strong without prolonging the mystery unnecessarily. As a result, all our attention is riveted on the most pressing, present-day question: can Laurel trust Floyd?
I really enjoyed this book. I found it taut, tightly paced, and utterly gripping. I had my own suspicions at the start, and while some of them proved true, one of the assumptions I was most confident about turned out to be wrong, and to great emotional fallout for the characters. I love that Jewell resisted the temptation to be coy about Ellie’s fate, and that she didn’t drop too many red herrings along the way. The tightness of her focus allowed us to experience fully the tragedy of the circumstances behind Ellie’s disappearance, and all the poignantly useless “What if” questions that were raised. We are also able to hone in on the crux of Laurel’s life in the present-day, as she dares to allow herself to become vulnerable to love again and as we can’t help but feel uneasy about the man she finds. It’s a strong thriller, and I highly recommend it.
Backlist Feature: The Girls in the Garden
To celebrate the launch of When She Was Gone, Simon and Schuster Canada asked bloggers to choose our favourite from Lisa Jewell’s backlist books and write something about it. The book I chose is The Girls in the Garden. I personally liked When She Was Gone better, but I remember being thoroughly creeped out by The Girls in the Garden. You can read my full review as well, but here I thought I’d share my initial response, as posted on Goodreads:
Dark and twisty cluster of relationships in a cozy neighbourhood. The mystery revolved around 13 y/o Grace being found unconscious and partly undressed in a communal garden. The reveal was deeply disturbing, and to my mind, needed to be unpacked a bit more. The ending, and the characters’ responses, was the most disturbing of all, and to be honest, I’m not completely sure how I feel about it (too neat and understated or potentially much more realistic and disturbing?) Yikes.
Check out the rest of the blog tour stops below!
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.