Book Review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

then she was gone

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that I couldn’t put down and I admit I’m quite late to the party when it comes to Lisa Jewell novels. I downloaded Then She Was Gone to my Kindle on a Wednesday evening and, by the weekend, had finished it. No mean feat considering that, in between reading sessions, I had a birthday, mother’s day, a trip away with my boys and some shifts at my day job.

Then She Was Gone tells the story of 55-year-old Laurel Mack whose daughter Ellie disappeared when she was fifteen. Laurel has spent the ten years since the tragedy trying to rebuild her life. She has separated from her husband Paul and has an uneasy relationship with her remaining children Hanna and Jack. While the rest of her family seem to have moved on with their lives, Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter, struggling to maintain relationships and live in the present. When Laurel meets handsome American Floyd in a café, she finally begins to see a way forward, the joy of being in a new relationship lifting her spirits. However, when she meets Floyd’s unusual and older-than-her-age daughter Poppy, Laurel once again finds herself in the grip of past hurts. Who is this strange child and where did she come from? Can she and her father somehow lead Laurel to find out what happened to Ellie all those years ago?

Marketed as a psychological suspense novel, Then She Was Gone is more a disturbing character study that focusses on the impact of trauma and the domino effect one person’s actions can have on all involved. Flitting between the past and the present, as well as various points of view, Jewell begins to tell us the story in flashback, each revelation then taking us forward to Laurel in the present and successfully moving the story on. Admittedly, as a few other reviewers have pointed out, some of the plot of this novel requires a slight suspension of disbelief and, for me, the ending of the book kind of fizzles out a little, the showdown that I might have expected from a psychological suspense never quite arriving.

However, Jewell’s characters are believable and sympathetic and Then She Was Gone is a touching study of loss and hope. Definitely a page-turner.

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