Format: eBook

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Posted July 31, 2017 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments


Emma in the Night by Wendy WalkerEmma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Published by St. Martin's Press on August 8th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, Suspense, Psychological
Pages: 320
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley, St. Martin's Press
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

We believe what we want to believe. We believe what we need to believe. Maybe there’s no difference between wanting and needing. I don’t know. What I do know is that the truth can evade us, hiding behind our blind spots, our preconceptions, our hungry hearts that long for quiet. Still, it is always there if we open our eyes and try to see it.

Three years ago, high-school senior Emma Tanner and her 15-year-old sister Cassandra went missing. Investigators had little evidence to go on; all they knew was that there were two missing girls and an abandoned car at the beach. The case went unsolved, but Cass has returned home, seemingly out of thin air. She insists that Emma is still out there and she knows how to find her.

FBI psychologist Dr. Abigail Winter was haunted by the Tanner case. During the course of the investigation, she began to see shades of her own narcissistic mother in Judy Martin. She believed that the girls’ mother may have been involved in their disappearance, but no one else was receptive to her theory. The case brought some of her old traumas back to the surface. Could she have been letting her personal life cloud her perception? Cass’s mysterious reappearance may finally let her get some closure.

“Everyone I could ever trust, everyone you could ever trust, could betray you. It doesn’t matter who they are or whether they mean to do it. Your friends. Your husband. Your wife. Your siblings. Your child. Even your parents. Some people just do it and they don’t care. They don’t think twice about it. But others do it and they justify it in their heads so you can’t even blame them. They have their reasons.”

The mother’s narcissism leads to an interesting dynamic between the sisters. Each girl developed their own unique way of coping. Growing up, their home was filled with constant hostility. There was little stability in their lives because the sisters never knew which version of their mother they would wake up to. They were both desperate for their mother’s love and Mrs. Martin made them earn it. She always made snide comments to remind the girls of their place in the house. She couldn’t stand for her daughters to become close and potentially form an alliance against her, so she set out to drive a wedge between them. Emma was one of the only people Cass could depend on, but she could also be extremely cruel, rubbing their mother’s favoritism in Cass’s face.

I think there are two types of people. Ones who have a scream inside them and ones who don’t. People who have a scream are too angry or too sad or laugh too hard, swear too much, use drugs or never sit still. Sometimes they sing at the top of their lungs with the windows rolled down. I don’t think people are born with it. I think other people put it inside you with the things they do to you, and say to you or the things you see them do or say to other people. And I don’t think you can get rid of it. If you don’t have a scream, you can’t understand.

Cassandra shares a name with a figure from Greek mythology, a princess of Troy who had “the gift of prophecy but the curse that her prophecies would never be believed.” Cass shared that same burden during her parents’ custody battle. She knew that living with her mother and stepfather would end badly for everyone involved, but she learned the hard way that “seeing the future is a worthless gift if you don’t have the power to change it.” Emma talked Cass into testifying against their mother, but in a cruel twist, Emma ended up siding with their mother. Mrs. Martin easily won custody of the girls and would never forgive Cass’s betrayal. Cass lost her status in the home and Emma became the preferred daughter.

A story is more than the recounting of events. The events are the sketch, the outline, but it is the colors and the landscape and the medium and the artist’s hand that make it what it is in the end. I had to be a good artist. I had to find talent where none existed and this story in a way they would believe. I had to set aside my own feelings about the past. … I had to be the person they wanted me to be.

The chapters alternate between Cass and Dr. Winter. Throughout the book, Cass reveals the events of the last three years. She insists that her mother is present to hear every detail. There’s something strange about the way Cass tells her story. The emotions she displays don’t always match the events she’s describing. Her demeanor is calm as she describes the last three years in horrifying detail. Her storytelling is very precise and polished. Sometimes Cass comes across like a child, but other times she seems wise beyond her years. Occasionally, Cass glances at Dr. Winter and there’s a flicker of recognition between them. Dr. Winter begins to wonder if she needs to begin paying more attention to the things that aren’t being said.

I read the first 40% in one sitting, but I had a hard time settling back into the story the next day. I think it’s because all the different elements are jumbled together, regardless of whose chapter you’re in: the search for Emma, Dr. Winter’s backstory, the story Cass is telling the detectives, and the story she’s telling the reader. Not being able to maintain that immersion is sometimes a dealbreaker for me, but Walker’s writing still captivated me. I value a story where the author takes me from feeling one way about a character to feeling completely opposite by the end of the story. Despite the messed up things that went on in Cass’s home, I found her demeanor a bit off-putting at first. There was a moment when I began understanding her behavior and motivations (right or wrong), and that’s when this story started to worm its way into my heart.

There is evil in the world and that evil can dress up as love so convincingly that it blinds you to the truth.

Cass describes herself as “a bird on the battlefield.” She spent her entire life being caught between forces much more powerful than herself. She’s been let down by all the adults in her life. Anyone who listened to her was powerless to do anything. Cass has to be the person everyone wants her to be in order to get the people with power to finally listen to her. Could this be her one chance to finally be heard? Is she even telling the truth? Will the investigators find Emma in time? This stirring tale shows how easily our perceptions can be manipulated and how sometimes people have to be tricked into seeing the truth. Just like a narcissist has to create a perfect alter ego to protect themselves, sometimes we have to find ways to maintain the realities we’ve constructed to prevent our worldview from being shattered.

The more literary writing style of this book reminded me of Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia. If you’re looking for more books with narcissistic mothers, you might enjoy Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas.

four-stars

A Separation by Katie Kitamura

Posted April 11, 2017 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments
A Separation by Katie Kitamura

Between two people, there will always be room for failures of imagination. The narrator receives an urgent call from her mother-in-law, wanting to know why her son Christopher isn’t answering her calls during his travels in Greece. The narrator and her unfaithful husband have been separated for six months, but they’ve decided to keep it […]

The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt

Posted January 17, 2017 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments
The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt

3.5 Stars. High school senior Gretchen Asher’s life changed forever the night she was attacked. She has lived in fear for the past six months. One day, she has a panic attack after seeing a young man who resembles her attacker. She realizes it couldn’t possibly be the same person, so she finds him to […]

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Posted December 18, 2016 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments
Kindred by Octavia Butler

Without any warning, Dana Franklin is thrust back through time and space. It’s 1976 and she’s settling into her new California apartment when she starts to feel dizzy. Her modern surroundings fade away and suddenly she’s in antebellum Maryland. She seems to be inextricably linked with Rufus Weylin, the young son of a plantation owner. […]

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Posted May 27, 2016 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments
We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

We remember the past, live in the present, and write the future. 3.5 Stars. One of the best ways to get me interested in a book is to tell me there is a character that is obsessed with outer space! I picked this book up for the science and the aliens, but it is mostly a high […]

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Posted May 13, 2016 by Taryn in Reviews / 2 Comments
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

A short and powerful memoir about living in the face of death. At 36 years old, neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. When Breath Becomes Air was written in his final months. In this thoughtful and deeply personal memoir, Dr. Kalanithi explains the questions of life-and-death that drove him to become […]

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Posted May 12, 2016 by Taryn in Reviews / 2 Comments
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

The Bennets navigate modern life in this modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice. I feel like I have been using the words “heartbreaking” and “brutal” too much in my recent reviews, so this book was a nice break from darker topics. Eligible is a fun summer read! I’ve never read Pride & Prejudice, or even […]

When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker

Posted April 6, 2016 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments
When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker

Melodramatic at parts, but it has a lot of heart. It is a story about a family working through grief, centered around a mystery. I had a hard time putting it down! Natalie Richardson passed away after a year-long battle with cancer and her husband Luke is now faced with the daunting task of raising […]

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

Posted March 14, 2016 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

I chose to run because I figured that would give me the best chance at something like living. And that’s exactly what it was. Something like living. Preposterous fun! Travel along with a woman who assumes different identities, while running from multiple pasts. (The main character takes on many names in this book, so I […]

The Longest Night by Andria Williams

Posted March 10, 2016 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments
The Longest Night by Andria Williams

[Paul] It was a moment that had been in the making for a long time; it shouldn’t have been any more horrifying than the ones that had come before. The worst step had already been taken long ago. Engrossing domestic drama set in the time surrounding the USA’s only fatal nuclear accident. It was more […]