About the book
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.
Published by Viking Books
I found this to be an intriguing read full of mystery, although it did fall a little flat for me on emotional impact throughout. And that was a bit disappointing after I enjoyed her debut novel, Elizabeth Is Missing, so much.
It's the story of how a family deal with a daughter who has gone missing for 4 days and then when she is found she refuses to tell them where she was, what happened... leaving them to let their imaginations run wild as to the horrors their daughter may have faced. It really explores the mother / daughter relationship well - no matter how much the mother tries to ease information out of Lana, her every attempt is seemingly thrown back in her face. And this leads to the mother going to extreme measures to try and find out any bits of information she can as to the events of those 4 days.
It was interesting to see how the rest of the family all dealt with this emotional trauma, and quite difficult to comprehend at times why the daughter was so reluctant to share any information and help the rest of her family come to terms with what happened.
I found it to be quite a slow paced read - the storyline just ambled along which did help to get a taste of how time can freeze at times of shocking events and allowed every thought that went through their minds helped build up more of the picture of the aftermath. But this did often feel like it was going nowhere and did feel a little suffocating - just like the events the family faced.
Overall it was an interesting read, if a little underwhelming at times.