This is the second Lisa Jewell book that I have read, Then She Was Gone was the first and is excellent. Just as in Then She Was Gone, the chapters in The Night She Disappeared alternate narrators. However, this book also jumps in time from chapter to chapter, which is too much for me to follow at times.
Tallulah and Zach are nineteen years old and parents to a young child. They live with Tallulah’s mom, Kim, who helps them take care of their son while they work and attend school. Tallulah is having second thoughts on her feelings for Zach and questions their relationship completely. Couldn’t they just co-parent? Sensing this, Zach tightens his grip on Tallulah, literally at times, and tries to use their son as leverage to control her.
Zach and Tallulah plan to go out to the local pub for a night of celebration – Tallulah earned high grades this semester and Zach was going to propose. A group of Tallulah’s friends from school show up at the pub and join them. After an evening of drinking and chatting, they all decide to leave and go to a friend’s estate to continue the party. That’s the last place Tallulah and Zach were seen.
Kim has no problem taking care of their son for the night. She even insists that they stay out late and have fun. However, when they do not come home the next morning, Kim begins to worry. It is unlike Tallulah to be away from her son for this length of time. Could Zach and Tallulah still be out somewhere sleeping off the previous night? Or did they run off together to get married? Or could something else more sinister have happened?
A year later, Sophie, a writer, moves into a cottage on a campus near the estate property that Tallulah and Zach are last seen. The dense forest nearby becomes a place the writer likes to explore and go for walks. She discovers an abandoned estate on one of her walks and wonders who could have left such an interesting property suddenly. Upon returning from one of her walks, Sophie discovers a sign in her garden that says, “Dig Here”, just like in one of the crime novels that she has written. When she digs, she discovers a jewelry box with an engagement ring in it. She tracks down the jeweler who sold it and he informs her that Zach had bought the ring over a year ago. Upon tracking down Zach’s last address, Sophie knocks on Kim’s door and shows her what she found. Sophie finds out that Kim has been searching for Tallulah for a year. Even though police leads have gone nowhere and the last people to see Tallulah do not seem to care, Kim retains hope that her daughter is still out there alive. Now the crime story writer and the mother of a missing teenager work together to piece together the events of the night Tallulah disappeared.
The Night She Disappeared is every parent’s worst nightmare. Not only is there a teenage pregnancy, but there is a secretly abusive and controlling boyfriend living under the same roof. Watching your child struggle to keep it all together – baby, school, money – must be gut-wrenching at times. On top of that, any parent would be desperate to find their child after they go missing. The story is riveting and thrilling; it will keep readers at the edge of their seat the whole time. Most of the characters are easy to connect with and believable; some of the supporting characters have minor issues with being relatable. My only issue with this book is that I couldn’t enjoy the story until the end, when I finally finished and could put all of the pieces to the story together. Looking back at the story as a whole, it is a great thriller, but I did not enjoy it while I was reading it. That could just be my preference in storytelling.
Let me know how you feel about this one.