My first thought upon finishing this novel was “what on earth did I just read?”. Then I read the Q&A with the author at the back of the book and read that Lisa Jewell thought “what did I just write?” when she sent the book off to her editor. Glad I wasn’t alone.
The story is about Ellie, a teen who disappears, and how it affected her family for years after. Her mother, Laurel, never gave up hope of finding her until Ellie’s body turned up in the woods nine years after her disappearance. By then, Laurel was divorced and had rocky relationships with her other two children who are now adults.
Then she meets a new man, Floyd. He seems perfect. Then she meets his youngest daughter, Poppy, who is the spitting image of Ellie and has many of her personality traits as well. This sends Laurel into a tail spin and soon she begins to realize the unthinkable when she finds out that Ellie’s math tutor had once been in a relationship with her new beau, and is the mother of Poppy.
Spoiler (skip this paragraph if you want to read the book and be surprised)- turns out the tutor kidnapped Ellie, locked her in her basement, and impregnated her with some random guys sperm. Ellie has a baby, names her Poppy, and the tutor then leaves her for dead in the basement so she can raise the baby with Floyd. The tutor then abandons Poppy with Floyd, and spills the truth about how neither of them are Poppy’s parents. Pretty messed up right?
Floyd eventually seeks out Laurel and asks her out on a date. Before he tells her the truth, he lets their relationship go on for weeks and even meets her family. In the end though, Poppy ends up with her true family.
This book the kind that you can’t put down… mostly because you can see something really messed up coming and you need to know what it is. The author studies how grief affects relationships after a great loss, and how that can blind us from seeing the truth about what is right in front of us. Lisa Jewell does this perfectly, and it is why this story works (it requires some suspension of disbelief).
It’s a quick and easy read. Not the best book I’ve read recently, but certainly worth picking up if you are staying in for the weekend to avoid another snow storm.