“We believe what we want to believe. We believe what we need to believe.”
Emma In The Night blew me away! I read this book in a morning. Devoured would be a more appropriate description because I could not put it down.
Emma and her sister Cass go missing on the same night. Three years later, we open the novel with Cass returning. She doesn’t tell us in that opening chapter where she had been, only giving us a glimpse of her mother and her family and the deeply disturbing childhood she had in that house. She tells us she had to return to that house though, to tell her story, to make them believe her so that they could find Emma.
“A story is more than the recounting of events. The events are the sketch, the outline, but it is the colors and the landscape and the medium and the artist’s hand that make it what it is in the end.”
Cass tells her story, unfolding the events from the night of their disappearance to Dr. Abigail Winters, the FBI forensic psychologist, first assigned to the case. We get the alternating narration, offering the thoughts and viewpoints of both Abby and Cass, which play off of each other brilliantly.
Abby knows there’s more the story, but in the greater effort of finding Emma, she doesn’t push Cass the way she wants to. She doesn’t force her questions in the directions her gut tells her, until the end when she begins to realize what Cass’s motives truly are.
Psychological thrillers are one of my favorite types of thrillers. There’s something messy and deviant going into the mind of someone else. It’s even creepier and more exhilarating when that someone else is unstable, violent or even crazy. I am also fascinated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
We hear narcissism thrown around fairly casually anymore. Articles telling us how people who take mostly selfies are narcissistic. Are you sensitive or a narcissist in disguise: take the quiz now. CEO’s: powerful type A’s or narcissistic sociopaths? We get snippets of these disorders, given to us in bite sized pieces that can’t possibly hope to do justice to these enormously complex issues.
So to have Walker dive into this disorder, and really give us a glimpse of what it is like, not only through Cass’s eyes, but Abby’s as well, was fascinating. The disorder is real and has very real ramifications for children living in these environments. The most enthralling part of this novel was the way Walker made me wonder whether Cass has truly escaped the cycle at all.
“It was the aspect of her research that had most fascinated her–the cycle of the illness and how children escaped it. It was as if the human soul within them was fighting to the bitter end, to survive, to find a way to hold on to this instinct to love and be loved–because that was the very thing that got lost with this illness.”
All the characters were twisted in a pattern of lies and manipulations. We knew from the beginning Cass had a motive, she had a reason for every single thing she said, everything she did. The strength in Walker’s writing is that she doesn’t give us any outright clues. In fact, the clues are so subtle, that by the end, when it is revealed I found myself going back and rereading certain parts. Only in the light of knowing can you truly appreciate the tapestry Walker weaves. Her ability to tell this story is amazing and the result is captivating.
I wasn’t hit with a stunning fact or shocking twist, even though in the end you feel both stunned and shocked. It’s a slow revelation, an unfolding of events. Walker takes us down a trail littered with bread crumbs. We follow that trail, greedily devouring the crumbs, not caring where they lead, only wanting more. In the end, I was left surprised and satisfied.
The sign of a good novel for me is one where I want more. And with Emma, I wanted more. I wanted to know more about the personality disorder. I wanted to know more about the characters. And more than anything, I want to discuss this novel with anyone and everyone.
Psychological thrillers aren’t for everyone. They often include a plethora of characters that are unlikeable, unrelatable and unreliable. Personally, I like that in a novel. Because it’s true in real life. Very rarely in life, at least my life, are there people who are always likable, or relatable, or reliable. They aren’t always anything. They are always a mix. Sometimes likable, sometimes not. Sometimes reliable, sometimes not. So I appreciate an author who gives me real characters who are a mix. Ironically, I find that relatable.
I didn’t read Walker’s first book, but you can bet it’s now on my TBR. Any book I can read in less than five hours is a winner for me. If you’re ready to be taken down a twisted path, with an uncertain outcome, this is the book for you.
Thank you to BookSparks and St. Martin’s Press for sending me this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review!