It was a glamorous ten-year anniversary celebration in a Mexican resort, and Hunter and Caroline Shipley, along with friends and relatives, planned a number of activities for that week. But on the last night, the babysitter did not show up, and a decision was made to leave the sleeping girls, Michelle and Samantha, ages five and two, in the room, just above their table outside…and they would check them every half hour. Hunter insisted, and Caroline went along with it.
But as all the best laid plans often go awry, that one certainly did, and a confluence of wrong things happened, leading to the kidnapping of two-year-old Samantha.
Now, fifteen years later, the trauma still follows them, with reporters showing up every time another year goes by. From the very beginning, Hunter presented well for the cameras, while Caroline’s stiff exterior made the press characterize her as cold and remote. She was vilified more than her husband, unfairly, in my opinion.
Caroline and Hunter divorce, and some of Hunter’s secrets surface, adding to the pain coursing through their lives.
But something unexpected happens in that fifteenth year. Caroline gets a call from a young girl who thinks she might be Samantha.
She’s Not There was a page-turning tale that swept back and forth in time, over the years, showing the lives of the characters, and reminding us of the pain that haunts them. Caroline blames herself for agreeing to leave the girls alone in the room when Hunter insisted on it; Michelle is belligerent and hateful most of the time, a sure sign of how events impacted her life, too. Could she be feeling overlooked? Invisible? Her behavior was annoying, but in the end, I came to feel more empathy for her.
Ultimately, I became suspicious of a number of people, and not totally stunned by the final revelations. How we learned of what happened that night did surprise me, however. I loved this story and could not stop reading it. 5 stars.
***My copy of the e-ARC came to me from the publishers via NetGalley.