Then She Was Gone, Lisa Jewell was one of my Book of the Month picks way back in the day. Look, I have the best intentions when it comes to my BotMs; here’s the thing, though, my entire life is books. I write them, I read them, I review them, I edit and publish them. And, just for kicks, I work part time at the library, so I am, quite literally, surrounded by books all the time. As a bibliophile, it’s a great problem to have; it just means that sometimes I end up with a TBR stack that is taller than I am. In heels, dahling. Because your girl is always in heels.
A synopsis in brief:
Ten years ago, Ellie Mack disappeared without a trace. Only fifteen-years-old, she was going to the library to study for her exams and was never seen or heard from again. Her mother went into robot mode waiting for the Return of the Mack – guys, I know it’s sad that a teen is missing, but I couldn’t get that song out of my head. She and her husband grow apart, eventually divorcing, and she has a distant relationship with her two remaining children. Over the years, the investigation has turned up nothing. No body. No clues. Nothing. The police lean more and more toward Ellie running away. Her mother, Laurel remains unconvinced. She is simply going through the motions of her life until she meets Floyd. They hit it off and quickly begin spending more and more time together. Laurel meets his children, Sarah Jade, who is 20ish, and Poppy, who bears an uncanny resemblence to Ellie. Is it the Return of the Mack? You’ll have to read it to find out.
My overall thoughts:
I like books like this. Twisty turns and murdery murders. Look, I have next to no drama in my actual life, which is fine by me. But, man, I’m a sucker for a drama-filled book. Secrets, lies, a daughter-in-law who possibly has the sight, precocious children who border on creepy, this book has a lot of good things to offer. I totally recommend.
Now for the spoilers.
This story gets more complicated when we learn of Noelle. Noelle is a maths tutor hired by the Macks to help Ellie sit her exams. The tutoring goes fine until Noelle gets a little weird. Ellie isn’t specific when she tells her mother she no longer wants to work with Noelle, just that she is getting a weird vibe and doesn’t think she needs the maths work. And, no, I am not misspelling math. TSWG is set in in the UK. They say maths, and I quite like it.
Laurel, happy in her new relationship, has completely shrugged off the similarities between Ellie and Poppy. It’s not healthy and there’s no logical reason to think there’s anything there other than coincidence. Until Laurel finds out Noelle is Poppy’s estranged mother.
This is when the book gets really interesting. What is the connection between Noelle and Floyd? Is there a connection between the disappearance of Ellie and Noelle? What, if any, is the connection between Noelle, Ellie, and Poppy? Where is Noelle now? What exactly is the Return of the Mack? Where did the Mack go in the first place? These are all questions I asked myself. Lisa Jewell answered almost all of them. She seemed to have limited knowledge of Mark Morrison and that’s a real shame.
For those of you are curious, but have no intentions of reading the book, what had happened was Noelle met Floyd at a book signing. He’s a maths writer, apparently. And she’s super into maths. So, they start dating and he mentions something about wanting a baby. So, she gets pregnant and miscarries. This is really where Noelle goes way off the rails. She takes Ellie. Noelle’s plan isn’t fully fleshed out, so she gets Ellie some hampsters to take care of and keeps Ellie in her basement. Noelle gets pregnant a second time and miscarries again…except she fails to tell Floyd and comes up with an insane idea that actually works. She pretends to still be pregnant, makes up some medical reason whey she can’t have physical contact with Floyd, which he buys without question, and inseminates Ellie with a stranger from the internet’s sperm. I said it was insane. But it also worked. Ellie delivered the baby and named her Poppy. As Poppy grew, Noelle needed Ellie less and less. She kind of just forgot about her, which is awful. She eventually had to hide her body in the attic and, years after the disappearance, she put Ellie’s belongings and a few bones in a ditch. It was horrific. Noelle, not fit to take care of anything, can’t handle Poppy. She drops her off with Floyd and books it…or so we’re told. Floyd, in a fit of rage, accidentally killed her and buried her in the garden. He raised Poppy solo, telling her very little about her mother.
Laurel entered their lives and it got even more complicated. Floyd cared about Laurel and wanted to tell her the truth. So, he sort of did. He made her a voice recording laying out the whole sorted ordeal and bounced, leaving Poppy with her.
Laurel called the police and Noelle’s body was recovered. It was exactly where Floyd said it would be. Poppy went under the care of her maternal grandmother. Everyone lived happily, and slightly traumatized, ever after.