Emma Healey's Whistle in the Dark came to me through a review somewhere, I believe, and the premise of a teenager missing for four days was fascinating for me. So from the library it came.
Lana was gone for four days. Her mother, Jen, who only wanted to take a holiday with her younger daughter, hoping it would help them connect and bring Lana out of her depression. It was supposed to be a week of painting in the country. But one night, Lana doesn’t come back to the cabin. After Lana is found wandering a field in the area, she is treated for cuts, bruises, a head wound, and ligatures around her ankles. The family returns home to recover. She is different, though, sleeping with the lights on, jumping at small sounds, and lying about where she’s been. Jen is convinced the answer lies in where Lana was those four days and what happened to her while she was gone.
The premise of this book gripped me, as I have, of late, just wanted to read some murder and mayhem. However, this book was not that. The whole time, I was reading to find out what happened to Lana, and I was given clues throughout her story as she was recovering, but it isn’t until the end of the story when Jen, about to lose her mind, goes in search of the answers in the place of their holiday. Lana, throughout the book, is at times a typical sullen teenager and at others, a young woman recovering from an experience she refuses to think about. She claims to not be able to remember what happened to her, and the cops are quick to close the case without further evidence of foul play. How far can a mother go to fine out what happened?
The truth is quite far. I was less than activated by Lana’s story about halfway through the book, and I’m still not sure why. However, I kept pushing forward to explore the relationship between Jen and her older daughter, an exacting lesbian who has gotten pregnant by her best male friend (purposely) and is bringing new life into a family who is struggling with the fallout of a depressive episode and disappearance. I loved this relationship and the contrast it was to that of Lana and Jen, and which informed that relationship. Jen doesn’t understand Lana, but she is clearly close with her older daughter. This was the part of the book I gravitated toward and that which I found to be the most compelling part of the novel.
Ultimately, Lana was a difficult young woman and a frustrating g character to read — I found myself not caring about what had happened to her. However, I found the rest of her family to be terribly interesting, even Jen in her neuroticism.