What we have here is a novel about how our relationships can shape us and the personal stories that we form about ourselves, often based on the perceptions and actions of others towards us. But more than anything else, it feels like a novel about a woman being gaslit in so many ways, to reinforce certain narratives about her character that she then can’t help but believe.
The Night Before is told from two different perspectives. One is from the point of view of Laura, a 28 year-old woman who has recently returned to her hometown after a bad breakup, and is finally going on a date with a man she met on an online dating site. The other pov is from Laura’s sister, Rosie, who had taken in Laura and urged her to go on this date, but after her sister does not return home from her date, Rosie is certain that something bad has happened to her. Or, perhaps, she is worried about something that Laura has done, given her previous histories with men. That is, as the story progresses, we learn more about Laura’s past and an incident that left her highschool boyfriend dead, with doubts throughout the town about her innocence in the ordeal. We also learn about the continued questions about Laura’s relationships with men that seem so wrong but she still so desperately wants to love her, as if she has always thought there was something wrong with her despite so much evidence to the contrary.
The way the story flips between the two perspectives, each revealing new discoveries piece by piece builds a tension and intrigue, although some instances of doubt and tension seem to burn out just as quickly as they begin. Overall, however, the story has enough twists and turns to keep it interesting until the inevitable reveal that I was waiting for the entire time. Because you know something just has to drop, but when it does… well… I didn’t care for it, to be honest, because it was a lot.
First it feels like it’s smacking you right in the face with a new revelation, but then it’s also not super surprising given my suspicions about a certain character since their introduction into the story. But I’m not sure the flip of the switch fully worked for me despite my uneasiness. Or, at least, the way that they try to rationalize and psychoanalyze the character’s actions in the final chapters felt a little heavily done and made me roll my eyes. I’m not saying that digging into someone’s past to determine their psych isn’t valid, but maybe this time it’s a simple fact of men thinking women belong to them, as they are told from childhood, and when this doesn’t happen the way that they want, they react violently. There is something important to be said about the way society shapes men and the way they view women, but that doesn’t really happen here. It just felt like it was overly explanatory in a way that wasn’t really necessary and I didn’t really buy.
So in the end, The Night Before was a fun, twisty little read, until that big, bold, and cringey ending. It kept a strong sense of suspense throughout, and felt like it was leading somewhere interesting but sadly, stalled out in the final act.