Whistle in the Dark – Emma Healey
If you’re looking for a thriller or a suspenseful mystery, don’t be fooled by the blurb of this, however, if you’re in the mood for an introspective domestic drama, this is the one.
Emma Healey follows the success of her #1 internationally bestselling debut novel Elizabeth Is Missing, winner of the Costa First Novel Award, with this beautiful, thought-provoking, and psychologically complex tale that affirms her status as one of the most inventive and original literary novelists today
Jen and Hugh Maddox have just survived every parent’s worst nightmare.
Relieved, but still terrified, they sit by the hospital bedside of their fifteen-year-old daughter, Lana, who was found bloodied, bruised, and disoriented after going missing for four days during a mother-daughter vacation in the country. As Lana lies mute in the bed, unwilling or unable to articulate what happened to her during that period, the national media speculates wildly and Jen and Hugh try to answer many questions.
Where was Lana? How did she get hurt? Was the teenage boy who befriended her involved? How did she survive outside for all those days? Even when she returns to the family home and her school routine, Lana only provides the same frustrating answer over and over: “I can’t remember.”
For years, Jen had tried to soothe the depressive demons plaguing her younger child, and had always dreaded the worst. Now she has hope—the family has gone through hell and come out the other side. But Jen cannot let go of her need to find the truth. Without telling Hugh or their pregnant older daughter Meg, Jen sets off to retrace Lana’s steps, a journey that will lead her to a deeper understanding of her youngest daughter, her family, and herself.
A wry, poignant, and masterfully drawn story that explores the bonds and duress of family life, the pain of mental illness, and the fraught yet enduring connection between mothers and daughters, Whistle in the Dark is a story of guilt, fear, hope, and love that explores what it means to lose and find ourselves and those we love.
I’m probably being unfair, there is a smidge of a mystery here and a little suspense but its lost in Jen’s paranoia, so you pretty much forget its there until the end when her thoughts come full circle and she actually solves the mystery. That isn’t to say that this is a bad book, far from it, it is clear Emma Healey is a gifted storyteller but the misleading blurb does set it up to fail as instead of furiously flicking through to find out what happened to Lana, I skimmed through pages of Jen growing increasingly more obsessed with Instagram.
Here’s the thing, this book has great promise and is well written but its marketed all wrong. Also, the characters are pretty horrible. Lana has depression, something I’m very familiar with, but that really is no excuse for all the things she puts her mum through. Jen is, though rightfully concerned, is bordering on complete paranoia which got tedious at times.
I requested this having seen it on NetGalley because of the success of Emma Healey’s first novel, Elizabeth is Missing, which I’ve wanted to read for ages. I think if it had less of a misleading blurb Id have liked it more, I was just expecting a fast-paced mystery novel and what I got was a slow-burning piece of soul-searching.