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  • Mandy McHugh

Don't Look for Me, Wendy Walker: A Review

I've had a solid run with mother/daughter thrillers, and this book caught my attention as soon as I saw it. This was my first Walker read, but it definitely won't be my last.

Molly's life hasn't been the same since the accident. Filled with grief and guilt following the death of her youngest daughter, an accident for which holds herself responsible, she disappears on the tragic anniversary, seeming to leave nothing behind except a note. However, Molly's been abducted by a nameless man and forced into playing the role of second mommy to a strange little girl. Nic, her oldest daughter, launches her own guilt-ridden investigation into the disappearance two weeks later, startling details come to light, and things she thought were true turn out to be lies. Where is her mother? Why is everyone lying to her? What really happened that night on the highway? Don't Look for Me is a twisty masterpiece, full of manipulation, lies, and secrets. I found myself drawn to Molly, a good mother who's having a difficult time processing her role in her daughter's death. Grief ebbs and flows, and Molly is the embodiment of that tide, at times finding acceptance of her state, and others consumed by depression and sorrow. The captive situation in which she finds herself pokes at that grief, bleeds it out, and with outside stimulus removed, she's left with her own thoughts and works through her issues to find a middle ground. Her decisions might not be perfect, but they are based in her will to survive for her two remaining children, in spite of the enormous weight she carries. I particularly loved the parallel relationships: of Molly and her daughters and the (essentially) surrogate daughter, of Molly and Daisy, of the reverberations of people's actions over the course of a decade. Molly's pain is never really physical, but the emotional toll that her character endures is one that left me gut-punched and breathless. Tiny tortures, as I started calling them, in something as seemingly innocuous as a cup of milk, were metaphorical puncture wounds, and I couldn't help but to root for Molly's will to live and ingenuity. Her daughter, Nic, was also wonderfully-developed. By far from perfect, Nic struggles with alcohol, her own bad choices, and the grief over her sister's death (again, that parallel that worked so well). It is through her ferocious determination and faith in her mother that she is able to pick up the pieces of not only her broken heart, but of the mystery of her mother's disappearance, that ends in a tumultuous, tense climax. While I wasn't surprised by the big reveal, the final pages were filled with complex emotions and the not-so-perfect fallout from a tragedy. This is the kind of book that will hit all the feels if you're a mother. Walker did an excellent job of layering the emotions surrounding motherhood and loss, and in Molly's struggle, I found myself wondering what I would do in a similar situation. Sometimes, there is no one to blame. Fate, accident--whatever it may be, circumstances don't always go as we planned, and as careful as you can be--as many safeguards and checks you put in place--things will still happen. This overarching theme resonated with me, and I think I won't be the only one who finds this to be true. Taut, well-paced, and beautifully written, Don't Look for Me is a 2020 must-read. Walker is a wonderful writer with a haunting story, one you won't want to miss.

 

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