Saturday, 25 August 2018

Book Review: WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT by Mary Kubica

Author: Mary Kubica
Publisher: Park Row
Read: July 2018
Expected publication: 4 September 2018
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ all the stars!

Book Description:

Jessie Sloane is on the path to rebuilding her life after years of caring for her ailing mother. She rents a new apartment and applies for college. But when the college informs her that her social security number has raised a red flag, Jessie discovers a shocking detail that causes her to doubt everything she’s ever known.

Finding herself suddenly at the center of a bizarre mystery, Jessie tumbles down a rabbit hole, which is only exacerbated by grief and a relentless lack of sleep. As days pass and the insomnia worsens, it plays with Jessie’s mind. Her judgment is blurred, her thoughts are hampered by fatigue. Jessie begins to see things until she can no longer tell the difference between what’s real and what she’s only imagined.

Meanwhile, twenty years earlier and two hundred and fifty miles away, another woman’s split-second decision may hold the key to Jessie’s secret past. Has Jessie’s whole life been a lie or have her delusions gotten the best of her?

My musings:

A good book is one where the characters leap from the page, effortlessly drawing you into the story. A great book is one where for an instant you BECOME the character, seeing the world through their eyes, the boundary between your reality and theirs blurry and undefined. And even if you may not always totally gel with the characters’ actions and turn of events, the pull of the story is impossible to resist. When the Lights Go Out was such a book for me. Maybe because like Jessie, I lost my mother to cancer and could relate to her feelings of despair and grief as she is watching her mother draw her last breath. Or maybe because Kubica writes so well that I got very quickly drawn into the story, to a point at which I felt Jessie’s grief and slow unravelling almost like a physical pain. As Jessie’s reality blurred through lack of sleep, I also felt as if the story swirled in a kaleidoscope of images that were similarly intriguing as well as disconcerting. Perhaps even more so as I read this book in between night shifts, where my own reality is a bit blurry at best!

The book is told in a dual time frame from Jessie’s and Eden’s POVs, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I empathised with each and every character in this story. Jessie, newly bereaved and finding herself not only an orphan, but also a girl without a known identity. Eden, whose married life starts off so happy, but whose paradise turns into a nightmare when she finds that she is unable to fulfil her one wish that soon becomes her sole obsession – to have a baby. And Aaron, who helplessly watches his young wife fall apart at the seams. Even Liam, who only features briefly, was such an intriguing character. Of course Kubica manages to weave the stories of all characters together in a clever, irresistible mystery that had me totally enthralled. The dark alleys of Chicago, and especially the spooky old carriage home setting, only added to the intrigue, and I could picture them vividly. As Jessie’s life (and mind) unravels with grief and lack of sleep, the house comes into its own, taking own its own menacing personality. Some of the scenes truly made my hair stand on end!

In true Kubica style, the author spun her web slowly and methodically, reeling me in, making me so invested in the story that sleep was out of the question (maybe that was the plan, so I could sympathise even more with poor Jessie?). For me, the trap snapped shut when Jessie found out that there was something wrong with her social security number, which set a whole chain of secrets and questions into motion. I was hooked, I could not put this book down. There were so many questions that bugged me like the infamous pea under the mattress, a flea in my clothes, a stone in my sandals. What? Why? How? I had so many theories about this one, and of course I was totally wrong. You may forgive me my bad detective skills when you realise that the ending is extremely unusual. You may love it, you may hate it, but admit it – you didn’t see that one coming either, did you? 


In short, I loved this latest novel by a writer who has become one of my go-to’s when I want a cracking good read, and whose books automatically become must-reads as soon as they come out. Kubica always delivers just what I am looking for in a psychological thriller. Anyone looking for a slow-burning, compelling and character driven psychological thriller with a twist, look no further! The only bad thing about it is that now I have to wait for her next book to come out ;)

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher Park Row for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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