Then She Was Gone

review by Tehra Peace

How do you go on with life when your fifteen-year-old daughter leaves home one day and never returns? In Lisa Jewell’s latest bestseller, Then She Was Gone, Laurel has been trying (and failing) to pick up the pieces in the decade since Ellie disappeared. It’s not going well. Her marriage has disintegrated. Her remaining daughter keeps Laurel at arm’s length. It’s a sterile, unfulfilled existence, haunted by the unanswered questions about what happened to Ellie, whose future had been so promising.

If you’ve read the book blurb, you know what happens next, and you can guess exactly what it means. Laurel meets the precocious nine-year-old daughter of her new beau, and she looks exactly like Ellie. You can connect the dots well enough on your own. But the story itself is about much more than that reveal. It’s all in how we get there.

When she starts dating again, Laurel finally begins to rediscover meaning in her life. She lost everything after Ellie disappeared. Now it’s coming back. Her new man, Floyd, is intelligent, cultured, and passionate about Laurel in just the right amounts. And his 

daughter? She needs Laurel. It’s been years since she’s had a mother—that’s a whole other mystery to unravel—and she instinctively latches onto this new material presence. It’s nice to feel that kind of belonging again. So much so that Laurel can almost overlook the red flags and weird coincidences between Ellie’s disappearance and Floyd’s past life. Almost.

If you think you’ve already guessed what happened and how, you haven’t. There are layers to this story, with each twist slowly revealed as the chapters progress. The pacing moves along at a nice clip, making this a page-turner that’s easy to read. There are

some dark moments for sure, but the story doesn’t linger too long or get too graphic.

By the end, all the big questions have been answered: what happened to Ellie, how the little girl came to be, and how Floyd fits into all of this. The resolution is satisfying given everything that’s happened. Ultimately, the story isn’t about Ellie, Floyd, or the little girl. It’s about Laurel and how she’s re-learning to become part of the world.

The bottom line: Pick up Then She Was Gone if you like twisty plots that pay off and don’t mind a little bit of darkness along the way.

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