Thursday, 30 July 2015

Book Review: THE WRONG GIRL by Laura Wilson

The Wrong Girl

The Wrong Girl
Author: Laura Wilson
Publisher: Hachette Australia Quercus
Read: July 2015

Synopsis (Goodreads):

In 2006, three-year-old Phoebe Piper went missing on a family holiday. Despite massive publicity and a long investigation, no trace of her was ever found.

Seven years later, Molly Jackson, aged ten and recently uprooted to a Norfolk village, finds her great uncle Dan dead in his bed. Molly remembers nothing of her early years, but she's been sure for ages that she is Phoebe. Everything in her life points to it and now, finally, she has proof.

Dan's death brings his hippie sister Janice back to Norfolk where she's re-united with Molly's mother Suze, the daughter she gave up for adoption decades earlier. Janice discovers that a former lover, Joe Vincent, lives nearby. Joe was a rock star who, at the height of his fame, turned his back on public life.

As she is drawn back into the past, Janice begins to wonder if Dan's death and Joe's reputation as a reclusive acid casualty are quite what they appear...

And then Molly disappears.

My thoughts:

When Janice gets the news that her estranged brother Dan has died, she returns to her childhood home to find out that Suzie, the baby girl she was forced to give up for adoption 44 years ago, has made contact with Dan and has been living with him for several months. She also finds out that she is a grandmother to 10-year old Molly, a somewhat reserved and distrustful child, who is convinced that she is Phoebe Piper, a girl the same age who went missing seven years before. Molly is so certain of her secret identity that she keeps a scrapbook of newspaper articles related to Phoebe’s disappearance and longs to be reunited with the Piper family, of whom she claims to have fond early childhood memories. Her theory is partly based on the fact that she looks uncannily like the pictures of what Phoebe would look like today, and that she has always felt that Suzie, the woman who calls herself her mother, has little in common with her. Besides, there are no baby photos of Molly, which surely proves that she must be adopted. A ribbon found in her “Uncle Dan’s” room, which she believes is connected to little Phoebe’s disappearance, makes Molly hide her knowledge from those around her, until she can make plans on how to be reunited with her “true family” again.

Meanwhile, Janice and Suzie struggle to connect after a lifetime apart with untold family secrets and dynamics standing between them. Then one day Molly disappears, a dead man is found in the woods near Dan’s house and Janice starts wondering about the circumstances of Dan’s death. Trying to find Molly, she must face old family skeletons and find out the truth before it is too late.

I loved the premise of The Wrong Girl but initially found it very slow and had difficulty engaging with the main characters, who seemed like a group of oddballs thrown in together without much emotional connection. It wasn’t until 54% into the book that the pace picked up, the different strands all came together to form a web and I was hooked by the storyline. Whilst I am still not sure whether I actually liked any of the characters, the story was intriguing as old family secrets were revealed and the circumstances of Janice’s past unfolded. As for suspense, the book did not really deliver for me, except intrigue about the strange dynamics of dysfunctional families and the effects on a young child (Molly). I felt very moved by the scene involving Phoebe’s mother (no spoilers) and Janice’s efforts to make amends to the child she gave up all those years ago. An interesting read for those seeking something outside your average family drama.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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