Book Review: What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan was one of the books I had picked up during a library visit. I had read one of her more recent novels and loved it. When I read the blurb to this one on the inside sleeve, I could not resist it.

The story centres on a boy, Ben, who goes missing when walking with his mom on a Sunday afternoon in the woods. He asks his mom if he can run ahead to the swing and she agrees. This is a decision that she learns to regret. The following events are narrated by the mother, Rachel Jenner, and the police detective in charge of the investigation, Jim Clemo. Everyone is called into the station for questioning: Rachel’s newly married ex-husband, her mother-if-the-year sister, the people who came into contact with Ben at school. The media focuses their attention on Rachel and public opinion shifts from sympathy to suspicion.

Rachel desperately pieces together threadbare clues while learning not to trust others. She begins to question her previously held beliefs towards others and begins to see herself in a harsher light. During the novel, the reader sees her growing aware of herself, and developing as a person. The tragedy Rachel experiences as a result of her son’s abduction causes her to reflect on her past actions, and to realise that she is partly to blame in the breakdown of her relationships.

The story depicts an event I would not wish on any mother – the abduction of her child. Macmillan shares the story with sensitivity and with a narration that reaches the reader’s soul. It is too easy to imagine the heartbreak felt by the mom, and the desolation and frustration of the DI working the case. The story is interspersed with transcripts prepared by a psychologist, online newspaper articles, blog posts, and even emails. Garnering information in this way renders the story believable and one can imagine how a situation as described in this novel would take place.

I enjoyed reading Macmillan’s offering and found it hard to put the book down. (How I wished someone else could cook the family’s dinner!) The novel did not end as I expected and I put the book down with a sense of sadness, and a desire that such things did not happen in the world we live in. This intense story is well worth the time taken to read. I had to give this novel 5/5 stars on Goodreads.

Have you read any of Gilly Macmillan’s novels? 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 19th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

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