Family, Fiction, Mystery/Thriller

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I had previously tried to read a book by this same author called All is Not Forgotten. While its premise had been interesting, I found I couldn’t get myself to get through the novel. However, I thought that this novel of hers had a premise that was even more enticing and I was willing to give this author another shot. Here is my review:

3 years ago, the 15-year-old Cass Tanner and 17-year-old Emma Tanner disappeared. Now, Cass has returned – but without her sister, Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

I really wanted to enjoy this novel, and in the beginning, I did. This story is told from both Cass and Abby’s perspectives as they circle around the kidnapping and the events that led to it. But after just a few chapters, I found myself struggling to get through this novel. Maybe it was the writing style, or maybe it was the story itself. But I really didn’t enjoy this novel. For one thing, there is a huge disconnect between the character’s emotions and the reader. I couldn’t experience anything because I didn’t actually feel anything that the characters felt; I was just told the emotions. It’s a very weird experience to not have the characters actually experience anything firsthand but just tell you everything after the fact. And I didn’t like it. I wasn’t able to get into the story, and so, everything just dragged on for me. When I got to the ending, I realized why the author used this style to deliver the story; however, it really wasn’t worth the effort. I also found that the story focused too much on the whole narcissistic-parent aspect. I love psychology and reading about different personality disorders, but it got very repetitive very quickly. It made the reader lose sight of the actual mystery of what happened to Cass’s sister. And again, because of the writing style employed, I wasn’t able to emotionally understand the impact of having a parent with narcissistic personality disorder. All in all, this novel was a mess. There was an interesting thriller premise but the focus was really on reiterating this idea of narcissistic parents and not the actual disappearance of the sisters. But even with this focus, it never actually felt like the author got to the crux of the matter because the writing style caused this awkward separation between the emotional and factual aspects of the story. It was a struggle to get through this novel, and I’m sorry to say that I was disappointed with the way it turned out. If the author had made the characters’ emotions more vivid and had told the story in a different way, with an equal focus on the parenting style as well as the actual disappearance, I think this novel would have been a lot more appealing for me. For now, I’m giving this a 1/5 stars.

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