Well Good Morning, or afternoon, or evening, wherever you may be! Welcome to day I-have-no-idea-anymore of lockdown! I’ve awoken on this Monday(?) morning bright and breezy after a really good nights sleep, to find the birds singing, the sun is shining and I’m full of the joys of spring! So I thought what better way to start the day than to sit down with a cup of my favourite beanies coffee (Cinder Toffee) and tell you all about my latest read!
I’ve been absolutely blitzing through books at the moment, I’m getting through around one a week – in normal living life it usually takes me a month due to work and fitness commitments but I’m taking this free time to get through my TBR pile, as it was huge! Although.. I may have also began adding to it… whoops 😉
THE GIRL FROM WIDOW HILLS, BY MEGAN MIRANDA
Megan Miranda is a New York Times Bestselling author and her previous book ‘The Last House Guest’ was a Reese’s book club pick; so when I saw this beautiful cover and thrilling synopsis by a highly praised author, I knew I just HAD to read it!
Everyone knows the story of ‘The girl from Widow Hills’…
The story follows Arden Maynor, who is now known as Olivia. When Olivia was 6, she was swept away whilst sleepwalking during a heavy rainstorm and was missing for 3 days. The whole town of Widow Hills was swept in panic – they searched for her, they prayed for her and they held vigils, hoping for her safe return. She was found, days later, clinging to a storm drain for dear life.
She became not only the talk of the town but a national story, a miracle. Her mother wrote a best selling book. Fame, money and unwanted attention from stalkers, medias and people chasing the dollars followed, so much so that Arden left it all behind – including her mother – as soon as she could to pave her own life as Olivia. Never telling anybody who she really was, never getting close enough for long enough to anyone, so that she could escape her past, shake away the story everyone had created about who she was and live her own life.
The distaste Olivia has for her mother and her handing of the ordeal is evident.. ‘her words were cliche at best, an untruth at worst – a story created in hindsight’. It’s understandable that Olivia would feel resentment for her mother’s ‘cashing in’ of such a traumatic event in exchange for her daughter’s privacy and healing after such terror.
“Arden Maynor felt like a role I’d played once. A Character I’d read about..Play the role until you believe it. Until you become it.”
Skip forward to present day and Olivia is an administrator in a hospital, living alone on the outskirts of town, with just her nearby neighbour Rick and a couple of friends from the hospital for company. However the 20th anniversary of the Widow Hills ordeal is nearing, and as with every milestone that goes by (5,10 years) media interest is renewed – however Arden is off the grid, vanished, nowhere to be found. Or so she thought…
In the first few chapters, we are introduced to most of our main characters; Rick the elderly yet tough neighbour, Bennett, the friend from the hospital, Dr Cal, the ‘sociopath’ neurology doctor and in some ways, I would say that Widow Hills itself is a character in this story – although this is not where the next unfolding events occur.
One night, she awakens, outside, barefoot in her garden. She stumbles upon something in the dark. She falls down and touches something limp. Her knee is cut, her hands are covered in blood, but it’s not her own. There’s a dead body. In her yard. And she has no idea how it got there. Alarmingly, she has no idea how she got there either.
The story takes off from here as a mysterious psychological thriller. A prolific sleepwalker and a brain that has gone through so much emotional and physical trauma – how much of Olivia’s memory can we or she trust? Are her memories real or has the brain pieced them together to make something logical, which is what it is known to do when there are gaps? Can she trust Rick? Is she being watched? Who is the dead body? Who killed them? Why were they killed outside of her home?
Page by page I found myself suspicious of a different character, chapter by chapter. Is it Dr Cal? Rick seems pretty dangerous, is he setting her up so they can blame her sleepwalking, how can she know she didn’t do it? Bennett seems a bit edgy.. is there something he’s hiding? As the pages turned I felt sucked into Olivia’s paranoia, her distrust at those around her, the reason why she never could fully reveal just who she was or where she came from, no matter how close she got to them.
The story then takes us on umpteen twists and turns of mystery and thrill. Is Olivia safe? Will she be framed, and what does this have to do with what happened in Widow Hills?
This is the first book I’ve read by Megan Miranda and it’s safe to say it won’t be my last. I adored the way it was written and was catching chapters as and when I could, excited to know more and race to solve the mystery before the pages told me the truth.
Firstly, the book has a prologue which sets the scene as to why Arden was left in the past and Olivia was born instead; her feelings of her story being ‘turned over to someone else’, becoming just a subject for interviews, articles and a book. As Olivia puts it, Arden is a ‘girl frozen in time.’ I enjoyed this prologue concept as it immediately led you to understand how much of a shell a child of 6 must have felt, having been discussed in depth by everyone and known simply as ‘the girl from widow hills’ – rather than Arden. It became easy to understand after the media circus that resurfaced years later, why she would want to leave everything she knew behind, including her only family, her Mum.
Also, at the end of each chapter there is a flashback to the event, a news report or a phone call. I really liked this technique as it introduced you to characters from the past but also put you in both time periods at the same time, leading you to understand the situation as it was then but also raising your intrigue as to what that’s got to do with now. Each chapter unveiled the past breadcrumb by breadcrumb. I loved it. I also found the descriptions to be pretty on point; nothing was left without a picture in my mind but nothing was written in an overly flamboyant or overly descriptive way, which I appreciated.
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 4.5/5
WOW. What a story. A thrilling ‘whodunnit’ with psychological twists, an underbelly of tales, mystery, lies, murder, and many suspicious characters both past and present. A cautionary tale that in a world of crazed media frenzy, book deals and national stories; your past may never leave you, no matter how you try to leave that chapter of your life behind.
I LOVED this book!! What an ending. I didn’t expect that whatsoever, Miranda completely hoodwinked me, that doesn’t happen often!
The only reason I have given this book a 4.5 rather than a 5 is that I had some unanswered questions and I wanted some more character development from certain characters that I felt could have been stronger. I really do not wish to spoil this one for anyone so won’t go into what those are (also given that it is not yet released I’m not giving anything away!) so will reveal those once it is published.
For lovers of Gone Girl and The Couple next Door, this is one for you.
Thank you to Atlantic Books and Netgalley for my free advanced reading copy of this book. My opinions within this review are entirely my own and not in anyway influenced by my gifting of this book.
WHERE TO BUY:
Okay so this one isn’t out just yet (lucky me right!!) but from what I understand it will be released on the Kindle in the UK and in stores in the US on 23rd June 2020, for the UK hardcopy will be available in hardback on 2nd July 2020.
agreatread.co.uk : £9.44
I really hope you enjoy it. Please drop back to the comments or let me know on IG @papyrusandpeppermint when you’ve read this one, I 100% recommend that you do!
WASHED DOWN WITH:
Shock , it’s not tea! But I have to share this with those that love coffee as it’s incredible. It’s sweet and a nice change from normal coffee, but 2 calories. It’s nut, dairy, gluten and wheat free. Perfect for those wanting a sweet treat without the impact on the waistline.
Where to Buy:
This is occasionally available in Aldi and Lidl for around £2.99, but for now you can order direct from Beanies here for £2.50 for 50g.
I’m starting a new read today but have a backlog of reviews to share with you, so I’ll be aiming to share one a week to keep you with something new to read and to consider buying.
QOTD: Is there a particular genre you’re being drawn to during lockdown?
As always in these times, stay safe and keep reading!