Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Pub. Date: December 14th, 2017
Publisher: Arrow 
Pages: 448

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller / Suspense



She was fifteen, her mother's golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.


It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter. And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet. Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter. Poppy is precocious and pretty - and meeting her completely takes Laurel's breath away.

Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age.
And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What happened to Ellie? Where did she go?
Who still has secrets to hide?

What Did I Think About the Story? 

It's now been weeks since I finished Then She Was Gone and I'm still thinking about this touching and heartbreaking mystery. It is actually somewhat hard to describe as it's this strange amalgamation of family drama, psychological suspense and thrilling mystery, a story that combines a woman's unending search for the truth of what happened to her daughter and that same woman's heartfelt mission to put her family back together again and move on from her grief.

My absolute favorite part of this story was the dynamic and very real-feeling characters. Lisa Jewell has a remarkable way of writing both the narrative and the dialogue so it feels like the reader is seeing these fully formed, real people living their lives and having conversations. They react like you would anticipate reacting - which is both good at times and bad at times - and have relatable feelings and flaws that drew me into their world as if they were people I really knew. This is great in that it glued me to the story but heartbreaking as well when I discovered some very hard to read truths about what had actually happened to some of these characters. I was upset and angry and sickened, but then calmed and left with a bittersweet appreciation for how other characters reacted to the same discoveries and how they chose to move forward from there. I'm being particularly vague as you need to read the book to experience it yourself, but I will warn you that it is quite the emotional rollercoaster and there are parts of it that might be hard for some readers to read. So "trigger warnings" for those that need it.

The other aspect of the story that I really enjoyed was how uniquely it was presented. The story is broken up into different parts, with various characters adding to the narrative and even presenting their parts to different characters. We've got Laurel in the present, bringing the reader along as she tackles a myriad of issues: trying to keep the memory of her missing daughter, Ellie, alive, while also trying to discover what happened to her; trying to piece back together her fractured relationships with her other daughter and son, her ex-husband, and her dying mother; trying to build back up that piece of herself that seemed to die when her daughter disappeared, that part of herself that allowed her to have love and give love, not only to those already in her life but to a new man. We also get to hear from Ellie, telling the reader what happens and leading them all the way through to a shocking revelation. We hear from Noelle Donnelly, a woman who once tutored Ellie and who also had a relationship with Laurel's new man, Floyd (these parts are particularly interesting as she is presenting her narrative directly to Floyd), and we even get to hear from Floyd's point of view a few times. It all comes together to show the many sides of these complicated characters as well as this complicated mystery, leaving the reader with a fully formed view of this touching and poignant story.

I absolutely loved Then She Was Gone for all of its contradictions and complications. It's both down-to-earth and incredibly complicated; it's heart-warming and heartbreaking; it's a twisty and terrifying mystery but also a family-centered story of loss and rediscovery. It's got so much to appreciate about it and I know that I've not done it justice here explaining why. It just really touched me more than I expected it to and I hope more people read and experience it. If you enjoy a multifaceted story and are not too turned off or aggrieved by severe mental illness that results in bouts of abuse then I highly recommend Then She Was Gone. I now plan on working my way through all of Lisa Jewell's novels (I've already read and really enjoyed both I Found You and The House We Grew Up In but I want to devour them all!).     

What Did I Think About the Cover?

This cover is pretty perfect given the story it represents. The fact that the cover is dark and blue makes you think of sadness and nefarious things happening, as does the shadow of a girl we can't fully see. I love it for this story!

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

I bought a copy of Then She Was Gone for my own library. All opinions are mine alone. To find more information about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase your own copy, see Goodreads HERE.

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