Jen and Hugh Maddox have just survived every parent’s worst nightmare.
Relieved, but still terrified, they sit by the hospital bedside of their fifteen-year-old daughter, Lana, who was found bloodied, bruised, and disoriented after going missing for four days during a mother-daughter vacation in the country. As Lana lies mute in the bed, unwilling or unable to articulate what happened to her during that period, the national media speculates wildly and Jen and Hugh try to answer many questions.
Where was Lana? How did she get hurt? Was the teenage boy who befriended her involved? How did she survive outside for all those days? Even when she returns to the family home and her school routine, Lana only provides the same frustrating answer over and over: “I can’t remember.”
For years, Jen had tried to soothe the depressive demons plaguing her younger child, and had always dreaded the worst. Now she has hope—the family has gone through hell and come out the other side. But Jen cannot let go of her need to find the truth. Without telling Hugh or their pregnant older daughter Meg, Jen sets off to retrace Lana’s steps, a journey that will lead her to a deeper understanding of her youngest daughter, her family, and herself.
My Thoughts: I loved Elizabeth Is Missing, so I was eager to plunge into this newest book. The situations are very different, however, and it took me a while to warm up to the characters, all of whom I found unlikable at first. I am intrigued by dysfunctional mother/daughter stories, however, and Whistle in the Dark reeled me into those aspects of the book.
Lana was one of those teens that is annoying, yet troubled. You feel yourself wanting to roll your eyes and leave her alone, but her obvious distress keeps you engaged. But Jen, the mother, is a bit too pushy, and I can see how her way of trying to help Lana would make the girl close down even more, hiding in plain sight.
I liked the addition of Meg, the pregnant older daughter, who lightened the mood a little, but her issues also make a play for attention. When both girls seemingly grab for attention constantly, you have to wonder where the mother’s focus has been. On the sidelines is Lily, the grandmother, the only sensible presence.
As she struggles, Jen asks herself these questions: “Why did she have to drag this love around everywhere when, sometimes, she’d like to leave it behind for a few hours? Without that love, she could float away, let her daughter’s mood improve, let her put her frown and her sharp tongue back in their still-shiny packaging.”
Exhausted emotionally and physically, and at the end of her rope, Jen takes her own surprisingly cyclical journey that leads her toward all the answers she needs. 4.5 stars.