The Lost Child by Emily Gunnis
Published by: Headline and Review (audio)
Publish Date: 2019
Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, British
HB&W Rating: 4
View on Goodreads
Buy on Amazon: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository
From the author of the runaway bestseller The Girl in the Letter comes a heartwrenching, twisting novel of betrayal, tragedy and a shocking family secret buried for decades.
1952. Thirteen-year-old Rebecca decides to become a doctor after watching her mother Harriet die on the steps of their clifftop home. Harriet was shot by her husband who then turned the gun upon himself. As Rebecca fled Seaview Cottage, she saw a stranger in the window watching her. But no one would believe her story and the tragic case was closed.
Present day. Iris, a journalist at The Times, has always been close to her mother Rebecca, a retired senior paediatrician. But when her mother insists Iris reads the diaries of her late grandmother Harriet, who was murdered by her husband, Iris starts to realise there is more to the past than she has always believed.
At the Times, Iris receives a lead on a troubled young woman who is on the run with her dangerously ill baby. To Iris’s surprise, the search takes her to Seaview Cottage, the scene of her grandmother Harriet’s murder. Iris is about to discover what really happened in the clifftop cottage that fateful night… and to lay bare a secret so shocking it will change everything she thought she knew about her family.
Synopsis source: Goodreads
Wow. I first heard of Emily Gunnis through the Chirp Audio Books newsletter. I saw her first book, The Girl in the Letter, for a good price through their app and with my Girls Weekend in Nashville on the horizon, I purchased the audio book to listen to while I was driving. That book was amazing and it was a given that, when I saw her second book, The Lost Child, pop up in my Chirp newsletter, it was an immediate download and listen to it right away.
P.S. If you haven’t heard of Chirp, it was created by the same people who brought you BookBub, but Chirp is strictly for audio books. If you want to check them out, use my referral link for 20% off your first purchase!
I would compare Ms. Gunnis to Kate Morton for her easy style of writing, flowing so easily that you can just keep going and going with this book and just get lost in the story.
In this story, Ms. Gunnis expertly unfolds the mystery surrounding the single one event that has shaped each of the main characters in one way or another. It’s an intimate look at mental health, and how much has changed about our perception of it and our reaction to it. Through the journal entries of Harriet, we see the ramifications of living with someone post WWII with PTSD. We see how PTSD has affected Jacob, who is prone to violent outbursts, and is physically and emotionally abusive, and his wife, Harriet, who is forced to endure, how she was rebuked as disloyal, traitorous for seeking help to get out of her abusive situation.
Then there is Cecilia, who “scandalized” her husband’s good name, and who, after the birth of her daughter, suffered postpartum depression, At her husband’s behest, after she presumably murdered her baby girl, Cecilia was committed to the local sanitarium for being “psychotic.” She was brushed under the rug and locked away to be forgotten so that her husband could move on to his next wife. Sadly, in this time, women didn’t even have to present with any signs of psychosis to be locked away by their husbands or families, so long as those who wanted them out of the way could pay off the doctors.
Then you have the fateful evening that shaped the lives of everyone that came after, the murder of 13-year-old Rebecca’s parents, Harriet and Jacob. Who was at the door that night, or was it all in Rebecca’s head? This poor child was ruthlessly questioned without an advocate by a detestable constable, whose face and voice would later haunt Rebecca for years to come.
And then there’s Harvey, Rebecca’s childhood friend and father of her oldest daughter, Jessie. Instead of believing Rebecca, and in the midst of her postpartum depression after their daughter Jessie was born, Harvey dismissed Rebecca as “crazy” and began pulling away, hiring a nanny to take care of their daughter, and allowing mother and daughter’s relationship to become strained, and eventually marrying said nanny, who did everything she could to discourage Jessie’s relationship with her mother. As a result, Jessie, having just given birth, is suffering PPD just like her mother all those years ago and is completely estranged from the one person that might be able to help her.
Enter Iris, Jessie’s half sister and second daughter of Rebecca. Iris and her mother have a wonderfully close relationship and they share everything with each other, except the one night that Iris is forbidden to talk or ask about. But when her sister Jessie goes missing from the hospital with her sick newborn baby, Iris has to race against the clock to find her sister and to get her niece the medicines she so desperately needs.
It’s equal parts a cautionary tale of what can result from ignoring mental illness, as well as an in-depth look at family dynamics and relationships, from the secrets we keep to the misunderstandings that cause strife. Gunnis takes us on this journey, keeping us guessing the whole way, and faithfully leads us to the end in such a way as to be bereft with the finish of this stunning piece of fiction.
I am adding Emily Gunnis to my “read every title” list of authors, and you should too. Please also be sure to check out her heart-pounding debut novel, The Girl in the Letter.
Until next time,
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