Comparisons to Gone Girl are inevitable so let me start there. Yes, this is a suburban suspense, with a (perhaps) unreliable narrator at the heart of it. She views her old home from the commuter train everyday.
My head leaning against the carriage window, I watch these houses roll past me like a tracking shot in a film. I see them as others do not; even their owners probably don’t see them from this perspective. Twice a day, I am offered a view into other lives, just for a moment. There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home. ~Pg. 14
She imagines the lives of the people who live there now. She creates their relationships and is envious from afar. Until the inhabitants of her former house (her ex-husband and his new wife) become entangled a missing persons case. Now our main narrator has to sift through her alcohol-soaked memories for any clue to what happened.
That’s just the main narrator. There are two more. This slinky, intertwined story is told from multiple perspectives, each teller with their own hangups. The reader even hears from the missing woman:
I’m walking in the woods. I’ve been out since before it got light, it’s barely dawn now, deathly quiet except for the occasional outburst of chatter from the magpies in the trees above my head. I can feel them watching me, beady-eyed, calculating. A tiding of magpies. One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told. ~Pg. 70
What makes this novel so slippery is what Hawkins doesn’t write. Her narratives are broken up into chunks of time. The speaker leads the reader to a culminating moment when the story breaks. It then picks up again after the incident and we read the aftermath, which is often far different than the narrator had imagined.
Thankfully, the author gives us a great ride with a definitive ending. We are not left to wonder ‘whodunit’, even if some of the details remain greyed around the edges.
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (January 13, 2015)
Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches