Mother mulls mystery of missing days

Elspeth McLean reviews Whistle In The Dark, by Emma Healey. Published by Penguin Random House.

In her second novel, 28-year-old British writer Emma Healey brings a fraught mother-daughter relationship to life.

Jen’s  troubled daughter Lana (15) goes missing for four days during an art trip in the country and when she turns up, will not say what happened.

When the family returns home to London, Jen becomes increasingly frustrated with her daughter, desperately wanting to find out what has gone on, but aware her badgering will be counter-productive.

Healey’s observations are nuanced, frequently funny, and spot-on.  Her style reminds me a little of Kate Atkinson.

The portrayal of Jen and her quest to solve the mystery about the absence shows how readily Healey can move between poignancy and ridiculousness.

What parent facing a major issue with a child has not felt "a sudden exhaustion from the burden of the love" for that child?

"Why did she have to drag this love around everywhere when, sometimes, she’d like to leave it behind for a few hours?"

Those who enjoyed Healey’s  acclaimed debut novel,  Elizabeth is Missing, are unlikely to be disappointed.

- Elspeth McLean is an ODT columnist and former health reporter.

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