Who keeps marking these as thriller books when they’re like a teaspoon of thriller and more suspense? I heavily disliked the first Jewell book I read and then really liked the second one (review coming soon). I wonder if this will carry with her other books? Like/dislike, like/dislike. This is a spoiler-free review with slight references to the plot twists.
Disclaimer: I loaned this book out of the library with the intention of reading and reviewing it honestly. The featured image is my own. The summary is taken from Goodreads. All opinions expressed are my own.
Title: Then She Was Gone
Author: Lisa Jewell
Narrator: Helen Duff
Year Published: 2018
Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC (audiobook). Atria Books
Cover Art/Designer: Could not find anything
Genre: Adult ~ Mystery ~ Thriller ~ Suspense
Links: Goodreads || The Storygraph
Copy: Library loan – Audiobook
CW/TW: (Taken from The Storygraph) Kidnapping, Child death, Death, Murder, Suicide, Miscarriage, Animal death.
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?
My word. I picked this up because the synopsis really sounded interesting and my sister really liked it. I also want to broaden my horizons and read something different this year! Which will be YA horrors/thrillers and then adult horror/thrillers. I’m very excited about the YA books but I think the adult books will be a hit and a miss and I guess I have to swing and see where everything lands. A good portion of me reading this book was moaning to my friend about the mom. So much ranting.
I don’t know if it’s the author’s writing (that I didn’t like so much), since this is my first book by her, or if it’s the genre itself. Maybe it’s a bit of both? I definitely think a good chunk (at least 70%) is the main character, Laurel – the mom. She’s exceedingly annoying.
I kept mixing up three of the female characters’ names – Laurel (mom), Hannah (poor, sad neglected middle child), and Ellie (the apparent wunderkind who makes flowers grow when she smiles and could probably cure cancer and poverty by laughing). Another reason was because they all largely have no personalities? Every time we hear about Ellie it’s mostly from Laurel so it’s like ‘Ellie is a sculpture in a museum’ – perfect, immortal etc etc. ‘Hannah is a very distant and cold person’ (which I absolutely totally understand after seeing her mom) and nearly every time Laurel talks about her she compares Hannah to Ellie. Laurel’s only personality seems to be Ellie. That’s it. She thinks about her all the time, she probably even sees her sometimes.
It’s not that I didn’t like Ellie, I actually didn’t feel really anything for her? I disliked how Laurel just doted on her so much that I think that just bled through and set how I viewed Ellie. I liked Hannah the most of the ‘kids’. The oldest kid – Jake – we get maybe about 5 paragraphs featuring him so I knew very little about him.
Laurel just waxes poetics about her youngest daughter and then talks about her middle kid being the ‘difficult’ one and how she won’t let her eat the lasagna that the youngest is meant to eat and it’s like… yeah, you ever wonder why your middle child is so difficult when you so clearly favour your youngest?
Also I know that you’re all so upset about your youngest disappearing but you literally have two other kids who still need a mother? The book moves from Then and Now and it’s uhhh yeah you don’t speak to your kids now? I could definitely tell you why. Laurel kept acting like Ellie was her only child and her other two kids were cousins staying in the house – both when Ellie was alive and then afterwards.
And it’s not even that I don’t understand grief – I do! But I also understand that you have other priorities? A husband and two other kids? And then her marriage fell apart but it didn’t sound very strong to begin with so how long would it have lasted if Ellie didn’t go missing?
There is a younger girl in the book as well, Poppy, she’s nine. She’s precocious (she’s described in the book as ‘pretty and precocious – she’s nine, not a contestant for a pageant show); but you definitely get the feeling that she’s been told that she’s mature for her age – which is a phrase I dislike very much. Poppy is homeschooled and you definitely get that feeling that she probably hardly ever speaks to another child – which isn’t all that great? Kids need other kids in order to socialize properly and learn communication skills other than just being around and conversing with adults. Even nonverbal kids can communicate in their own ways so it’s not even about specifically verbal conversations.
But anyway, Poppy is given the line of her laugh being compared to a ‘womanly tinkle’ and I had a few seconds of “I should dnf this” right there. I wasn’t really interested in the book and I could’ve just read spoilery reviews and see what all happened. But I decided to carry on! Another… very interesting sentence was that Laurel sleeps with a man (Poppy’s dad) and she sees him the next morning (after a shower I believe) and she compares his skin to… uncooked chicken. Another point in the ‘should’ve dnfed’ pile!
I guessed the plot twist a mile ago (for me at least, it wasn’t that difficult but also I don’t know how Jewell writes plot twists generally? But even with her other book (The Family Upstairs), the plot twist wasn’t difficult again. Or maybe I’m just so used to watching mystery shows that I guess plot twists early?
I liked the narrator – I think she was another reason why I chose to carry on – I liked her voice. I saw that she’s narrated a few other Jewell books so I’ll keep that in mind for whichever book of hers I’ll read next.