First things first: Then She Was Gone was my Book of the Month pick for April. I LOVE Book of the Month . I pick wonderful books on the first of every month and then they come in the mail, all wrapped up in a pretty blue box. Opening it is one of my favorite monthly treats.
It’s time to think about Mother’s Day gifts, FYI. Book of the Month would be a wonderful gift for those reading Mommas in your life. And, if you get Mom a subscription, you can get a free month for yourself!!
Okay, enough gift suggestions. Let’s get on to my thoughts on Then She Was Gone.
BOOK TITLE: Then She Was Gone
BOOK AUTHOR: Lisa Jewell
PUBLISHER: Atria Books
GENRES: Literary Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Thriller
CHECK IT OUT AT: Goodreads
BUY IT: Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: I Found You
Ten years after her teenage daughter disappears, a woman crosses paths with a charming single father whose young child feels eerily familiar, in this evocative, suspenseful drama from New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell—perfect for fans of Paula Hawkins and Liane Moriarty.
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?
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Most thrillers are told with hard edges and sharp corners. It’s usually the perfect way to tell a story with violence, a story with the ability to take your breath away with one blow.
But, in Then She Was Gone, Jewell tells the story softly, with rounded bends instead of 90 degree turns. It’s rolled out to readers in such a lovely, flowing fashion. Even the death of Ellie is done without true violence, proving that evil can work around the edges without blunt force.
It works so perfectly, because this is the story of women, with the men playing very peripheral roles in this thriller. It’s both soft and strong, like women. The story is told with curves more than sharp angles, while still being strong and deadly. As all girls and women learn, women don’t usually commit their evil acts with blunt force: That seems to be a last resort or a spur of the moment, desperate act for females. Women will often go about their evil (or everyday meanness) in sneaky, around the back ways. With softer-seeming approaches that go unnoticed until the act is done and lives are broken.
There are three main narrators, telling their stories throughout the last ten years. The chapters delineate with Now and Then. Now is a set in the present, but Then is more arbitrary. Some of the chapters happen 10 years ago, some of the Thens are more recent.
Then She Was Gone is mostly told from Laurel Mack’s point of view. She’s the mother of missing Ellie Mack, and her present is 10 years after Ellie’s disappearance. Ellie’s remains have been found, and Laurel is starting to emerge from her lost years.
It was refreshing and amazing to read this very flawed mother (as all mothers are). She admits to having a favorite child, and when that child disappears, it breaks her. She kind of abandons her other two children and discards her husband when her Ellie disappears.
Ellie was the child she connected with the most. We don’t learn much about her son Jake except that before Ellie disappeared he was a typical teen and after, as an adult, he’s in a relationship with a woman Laurel doesn’t really get. Her other daughter, Hanna, has compartmentalized Laurel as much as possible while still keeping her in her life, and Laurel’s done the same. Hanna lets her clean her apartment, and pays her, although Laurel doesn’t seem to need the money. She talks to her mother grudgingly, and Laurel thinks that Hanna has no life, only work and home. They circle each other’s lives without really ever knowing each other. then
Ellie also gets to give readers her own story, doling out information about herself and her moments in the Then chapters. And other chapters, highlighting other women in the story, give us the story from many points-of-view.
Jewell tells this story so perfectly, doling out bits and pieces to lead you down the path to Ellie, only for you to realize you’ve been lead down the wrong path and you have to circle back. These red herrings are perfectly placed, making sense and then NOT being the answer.
Then She Was Gone wonderfully paced, and the shape of the story fits so wonderfully with the story itself. The pacing is spot on, the characters and real, raw, and believable, even the story itself seems like it could be ripped from the headlines.
And, if you have a mother who loves thrillers, this would be a great gift. Take it from me, a mother who loves thrillers!!! I loved Then She Was Gone. Real and raw, sad and happy, thrilling and soft. It all happens in this one.