Sunday, April 11, 2021

Review: When the Stars Go Dark: A Novel by Paula McLain

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife comes an atmospheric novel of intertwined destinies and heart-wrenching suspense: A detective hiding away from the world. A series of disappearances that reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal?

Anna Hart is a seasoned missing persons detective in San Francisco with far too much knowledge of the darkest side of human nature. When tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet the day she arrives, she learns that a local teenage girl has gone missing.

The crime feels frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna’s childhood, when the unsolved murder of a young girl touched Mendocino and changed the community forever. As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with saving the missing girl, she must accept that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in.

Weaving together actual cases of missing persons, trauma theory, and a hint of the metaphysical, this propulsive and deeply affecting novel tells a story of fate, necessary redemption, and what it takes, when the worst happens, to reclaim our lives—and our faith in one another. 

Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Expected publication: April 13th 2021
 by Ballantine Books
4/5 stars

I've read Paula McLain's The Paris Wife and Circle the Sun and I knew right away that this would be a book totally different from her norm in terms of cadence and subject. Knowing how personal this story is to the author made it all the more compelling.  McLain draws on her own past and bears her soul making for an emotional read.

This is a slow paced, character driven story, dark with a theme that draws on the historical past of the northwest. It's during a horrible time in 1993 surrounding the disappearance of young girls.  At the same time, Anna Hart is reeling from her own tragic past and lands in the middle of a missing person case.

This is a complex story with a  large cast of characters (yea I had to pay attention). Anna is well developed in terms of her emotional journey, she faces her past a midst these missing girl cases.  Though it lagged a little in the middle the ending was fast paced and while I would have liked it to go on for another chapter or two I get what the author did there.  It was still a good ending.

When the Stars Go Dark releases April 13th.  My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for an honest review.

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