I decided I would sneak one in just at the deadline and yet again it’s not one that was featured on my original list. I’m such a mood reader.
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.
This is a difficult review to write because I went into this book thinking it was going to be something a little bit different to what it was.
I got the impression from the blurb that it was going to be a mystery, that the book was going to revolve around Jen actively trying to find out what happened to daughter Lana when she went missing. Instead this is a look at the relationship between the pair and how they cope in the aftermath of Lana going missing.
Don’t get me wrong it is a good book but for me a lot of it was lost to the anticipation of Jen following in Lana’s footsteps to find out where she had been. There was quite a solid chunk of the book that felt very slow and drawn out and became difficult to get through because of this. I do wholly feel though that if you have different expectations going in then it will definitely be a very stand out novel for you.
I loved that there were no chapters in this book, it was all segments with different titles, some could be pages long, some were like a brief interlude in the story, I found that the shorter segments held some witty observations and tended to make me laugh in some way. The author does have a very engaging way of writing, a knack for clever description, and a tone that at the same belied camaraderie and authority.
The characters were very well written, at first I could totally empathise with Jen and the situation that she has been put in. I could only imagine how terrible it must feel when you are both relieved at the outcome and horrified thinking about what might have happened. I did find that after about halfway through that her actions were starting to grate on me and she became a little less likeable but I think in the end it lends itself to the story, the obsession that starts to take over everything is exactly how I would imagine it would play out if I were in that situation.
Lana was an interesting character I didn’t find her particularly likeable, but she was the kind of character that can hold my attention, she switched between moments of being a sarcastic and at times arrogant teenager and then having this intense vulnerability. You never really know where you stand with her and I really enjoyed that tension throughout the book.
As much as I found the middle section difficult to get through, I was pleasantly surprised by the ending, by how much Jen’s thoughts had influenced what I thought the outcome would be in contrast to what is revealed. It was amazingly clever in its simplicity.
Whilst I’m annoyed that I didn’t fully enjoy it, I can certainly appreciate a lot about this book and I would still definitely recommend it to others.