Lisa Jewell first made her name with witty, heartwarming tales like ‘Ralph’s Party’ and ‘Vince & Joy’. Her last few novels have taken a distinctly darker turn. ‘The House We Grew Up In’ dealt with the impact of a hoarder’s behaviour on her family, while ‘The Girls’ explored the theme of child abuse. Her latest is similarly dark, emotionally wise and deeply moving.
‘Then She Was Gone’ is the story of a teenage girl who goes missing and the mother left clinging to the hope that one day they’ll be reunited. Laurel hasn’t slept properly since 2005, when daughter Ellie disappeared. Her marriage has broken up, her mother is in a nursing home and her two remaining children are physically or emotionally distant. She’s not really living, merely going through the motions. Then one day a man called Floyd sweeps Laurel off her feet. Finally she feels alive again. But there’s one small problem. Floyd has two daughters – the youngest of which, Poppy, bears an uncanny resemblance to the daughter Laurel lost ten years ago.
Jewell explores the impact of a missing child on a loving mother with heartbreaking intensity. She also cranks up
the tension as family dynamics are laid bare and events
and characters from the past impact on the present.
There aren’t many writers who can deliver emotional truths and psychological thrills this well. ‘Then She Was Gone’ is the work of a novelist at the top of her game – heart-stopping, page-turning and hugely satisfying.