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Whistle in the Dark: A Novel Hardcover – July 24, 2018
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“For those who like their thrillers a little more literary, this one’s for you. Healey’s follow-up to her breakout Elizabeth Is Missing promises a psychologically arresting mystery surrounding the disappearance of a 15-year-old girl. Intriguing commentary on mental illness, trauma, and family life abounds.” (Entertainment Weekly, “Summer’s 11 Hottest Thrillers”)
“What starts with a thrillerish seteup—missing teen—takes us to a more familiar but equally disturbing place. Trying to understand what happened to her daughter, Jen learns that we may be our own greatest fear.” (Family Circle, “Summer’s Best Books”)
“You have to read Whistle in the Dark. . . . A powerful novel about shared trauma, the effects of mental health on the family, and the pressures of motherhood, this is a slow-burning and utterly unsettling domestic thriller you will have a hard time putting down.” (Bustle)
“Gripping psychological suspense pitting a hostile teen who won’t explain herself against a mom turned detective who’ll risk even her sanity to reach her daughter.”
(People, “The Best New Books”)
“An absorbing view of a family, with the emphasis on the mother-daughter connection, in which—flaws aside—love shines through.” (Booklist (starred review))
“I don’t know anyone else who writes like this. Emma Healey’s voice soars, sings, and startles as she takes you right under the skin of her characters. She ‘magics’ the ordinary into the extraordinary and, just as impressively, transposes the extraordinary to the ordinary. Unforgettable.” (Jane Corry, author of My Husband’s Wife and Blood Sisters)
PRAISE FOR ELIZABETH IS MISSING: (:)
“[A] knockout debut...Ms. Healey’s audacious conception and formidable talent combine in a bravura performance that sustains its momentum and pathos to the last.” (Wall Street Journal)
“Spellbinding.” (New York Times Book Review)
From the Back Cover
From award-winning novelist Emma Healey comes a wry, poignant, sharply observed new novel about mothers and daughters in the modern age.
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.
Lana won’t tell anyone what happened, and the police think the case is closed. But Jen can’t leave it alone. Lana is distant, hostile, and acting strangely: she stops going to school and sleeps with the light on.
Jen is sure the answer lies in those four missing days. Lana seems equally sure she’ll never speak of it. Terrified of losing her all over again, Jen has to do something. But how do you rescue someone who has already been found?
Asking how well you can know even those closest to you, Whistle in the Dark is a masterfully drawn, thought-provoking, and psychologically complex tale that affirms Emma Healey’s status as a writer at the top of her game.
- Item Weight : 1.1 pounds
- Hardcover : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0062309714
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062309716
- Dimensions : 1.5 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
- Publisher : Harper (July 24, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,055,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The short chapters were disruptive in that they interrupted the flow and their titles were vaguely childish and affected.
The experimentation with different formats also came across as affected - the author seemed to be trying to hard.
I am not one of those people who believes that the characters need to be likable in order to keep the reader interested. I was fine with the fact that the protagonist was flawed. But, I didn’t really care what happened to her. And therein lies the flaw. The author should have been able to make me care.
I can’t help but wonder - would the author have been able to get this book published if her first one hadn’t been a success?
PS: the ending was too convenient! The mother just happens to come across the one cave (in a huge cave system) where her daughter had been? And happens to find her lost phone in the dark cave? Really? And then gets into the phone (no passwords required) and finds the one piece of information that explains everything? I felt like the author got bored and wanted to end the book one way or the other!
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.
My Thoughts: I loved Elizabeth Is Missing, so I was eager to plunge into this newest book. The situations are very different, however, and it took me a while to warm up to the characters, all of whom I found unlikable at first. I am intrigued by dysfunctional mother/daughter stories, however, and Whistle in the Dark reeled me into those aspects of the book.
Lana was one of those teens that is annoying, yet troubled. You feel yourself wanting to roll your eyes and leave her alone, but her obvious distress keeps you engaged. But Jen, the mother, is a bit too pushy, and I can see how her way of trying to help Lana would make the girl close down even more, hiding in plain sight.
I liked the addition of Meg, the pregnant older daughter, who lightened the mood a little, but her issues also make a play for attention. When both girls seemingly grab for attention constantly, you have to wonder where the mother’s focus has been. On the sidelines is Lily, the grandmother, the only sensible presence.
As she struggles, Jen asks herself these questions: “Why did she have to drag this love around everywhere when, sometimes, she’d like to leave it behind for a few hours? Without that love, she could float away, let her daughter’s mood improve, let her put her frown and her sharp tongue back in their still-shiny packaging.”
Exhausted emotionally and physically, and at the end of her rope, Jen takes her own surprisingly cyclical journey that leads her toward all the answers she needs. 4.5 stars.
Top reviews from other countries
Unfortunately, I was completely underwhelmed, almost to the point of boredom by this book. I didn’t particularly like or relate to any of the characters, and plodded through, skim reading some sections, just to get to the end and find out what happened. When I eventually did, it was such an anti-climax, I’m not sure it was worth the effort.
I do applaud the author for attempting to explore the topic of teenage mental health and self-harm, primarily from a parent’s perspective, but felt even this was watered down and just when the author started really getting into the grittiness of the characters’ views and feelings about what was going on, I felt like she got distracted by unimportant events or overly-descriptive flashbacks which left me feeling unsympathetic towards any of the characters.
Overall, I was disappointed and wouldn’t recommend this book.
I read a snipey review, particularly harsh about the ending, which I heartily disagree with. It’s 3.00a.m. but I just had to know....
One day, while the pair are on a painting holiday in the Peak District as a mother-daughter bonding exercise, Lana disappears. She's found a few days later, dehydrated, bleeding from a head injury and with what seem to be rope marks around her ankles, but all she'll tell her parents, and the police, is that she went out to the shower block at their camp site and 'got lost'. The story that unfolds is that of Jen's quest to find out what happened to her daughter during those four days, and of the whole family's struggle to deal with Lana's adolescent depression in the months before and after her disappearance.
This isn't, however, a crime story or a psychological thriller, and I think people who pick this up looking for a gripping mystery will probably be disappointed (which I think accounts for some of the more negative reader reviews on Amazon). Instead, it's really more of a portrait of the relationship between mother and daughter - and personally I found it insightful and well-crafted. We learn how Lana got her name - a strange man suggested it when he accosted the desperately sleep-deprived Jen on a train, upon which she was travelling solely in the hope that the noise and motion would soothe her still-unnamed newborn. We learn that Lana has been prone to self-harm, that she can be sullen, difficult, secretive, jealous of her clever, capable older sister Meg, who Lana claims is only gay 'for attention'. There's the family therapy with Dr Greenbaum, who infuriates Jen by referring to her as 'Mum' throughout each session as if she has no identity of her own other than as Lana's mother.
And really, that in itself is central to the book - motherhood, the constant anxiety of parenting, and the loss of self that happens not just for Jen but for the whole family when Lana's fragile mental health becomes the focal point of their family life.
This makes the book sound terribly gloomy, but surprisingly, it's not. It's often quite witty, full of astute observations, and some of Jen's anxieties about Lana are darkly funny (is she blinking too much?) It's sad too, without a doubt, but by and large the whole family are likeable, so I found myself rooting for them to overcome their problems. Although Lana's behaviour is sometimes infuriating - it's unclear how much of her attitude is a result of her depression and how much of it is standard manipulative teenage obnoxiousness - I found it impossible not to feel sorry for her when I didn't wan't to shake her.
There is a resolution to the mystery, but it might not be the one you expect and some might, I think, find it anticlimactic. But I think it has a deeper meaning that's a fitting one for the book as a whole.