Bingo Category: Flora
Another in the long line of twisty mysteries that are all so similar nowadays, but set apart by some pretty good writing and genuine emotion.
You will recognize the setup for Then She Was Gone because you’ve read a similar plot summary a million times: Laurel Mack’s daughter Ellie is abducted, and ten years later she meets and falls in love with Floyd–and upon meeting his daughter, Poppy, is shocked at the physical similarities the girl has to Ellie.
Then She Was Gone didn’t really contain a lot of surprises, as I’d soon guessed the general outline of what had happened to Ellie, but I kept reading because it moves incredibly quickly and I liked most of the characters (a rarity in this type of mystery, for me).
So often this type of book is centered around truly unlikable–or just not well-characterized–people, and it’s almost unpleasant to spend time with them. I liked Laurel, and her ex-husband Paul, and her two surviving children, and her new love interest, Floyd. There are several chapters from the point of view of Ellie, the missing daughter, and even though she’s a typical golden-child teenager, I liked her too, and felt empathy for her (so often in these books the missing or murdered person at the heart of the story isn’t a real character at all, just a stand-in to give the protagonist motivation to move the story along. Ellie felt real).
If you’ve read any books in this genre before, you will guess the twist long before the end–for me, there was only one true surprise and that was the reveal of the partner of Laurel’s other daughter, Hanna. That only surprised me as much as it did because I had convinced myself that something else was going on entirely. The real disappointment in this book is Poppy, the young girl who resembles Ellie. She’s supposed to be precocious, because of course she is, and I wish authors would stop trying to write precocious children because they are all so very, very bad at it. Poppy is a nihilist who believes life is meaningless, which is a bit much coming from a 9-year-old, she gives a weird, creepy toast at Laurel’s birthday dinner, and she refers to prunes as “the devil’s work.”
Other than Poppy, though, I really did enjoy this. It’s certainly not great literature or an unsolvable mystery, but it’s a good entry into this genre, because it’s actually well-written.