by Clare Mackintosh
In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.
Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .
After reading the author's second book (I See You), I kept reading reviews that compared it to this one, and most were to the effect that I Let You Go was much better. I'd probably agree that the first novel is the stronger of the two, but I didn't see that much of a disparity between them. I Let You Go is more serious/less potboilery, but I didn't enjoy it more than I See You. If anything, I had a harder time working my way through it and was happier to reach its end.
The afterword reveals the author's very personal connection to certain components of her novel, which makes me feel a little guilty for my reaction to it-- but ultimately, it doesn't change the fact that for me, this was a only a three-star novel. It's readable, but I didn't enjoy the reading... I found it cliched and (for the most part) depressing.
As for the "twists"...
Something was clearly being held back about Jenna, but I didn't guess that she was in the car, so I count that as a successful twist.
I was significantly less impressed by the second twist-- that Ian was Jacob's father. Too far-fetched. Just silly, really.
As for the weird last few lines of the novel, where we are given wiggle-room to speculate that Ian somehow (impossibly) survived his fall from the cliff and was stalking Jenna again... Grant me permission to roll my eyes? In some books, that type of cheesy ending is fine-- expected, even-- but for a book that has been more or less realistic and serious, it didn't fit in at all. If the intention was only to illustrate that Jenna still bears the psychological scars of her abusive relationship and will always be looking over her shoulder-- well, ok, but it should've been handled differently, I think.
Getting back to the bulk of the novel, I sometimes ran out of patience with both of our main characters.
First, Ray. He's a likable-enough guy, but were his personal dramas (constant friction with his wife and son, pressure to get a promotion, temptation to dally with a pretty co-worker) really necessary to the novel? I mean, there were times when his parts of the book were more interesting than Jenna's, but he was also just a little too clueless for a detective. (And his name. Ray Stevens. Really?)
As for Jenna... For the last quarter or more of the book, she filled me with frustration. I realize that many abused women behave in ways that seem inexplicable to those who haven't been through that type of treatment, but that doesn't make it easier to understand or empathize with. Her unwillingness to tell the police that it was her awful, abusive husband who was behind the wheel during the hit and run... I just can't wrap my mind around that. It doesn't make sense, and I can't believe an otherwise intelligent woman would be that brainwashed, even though I know it probably does happen. (But... even to that extent? It still beggars belief.)
Speaking of Jenna's abuse, I understand that we "needed" to see how abhorrent Ian was, but at some point he became a caricature of the Abusive Bad Guy. He was so exaggerated that he didn't seem real. (Maybe I'm just naive.)
Oh, and what kind of police detectives would send Jenna home without a police escort when her evil husband was still on the loose? Insane!
Everything taken together, it was a decent read, but not a favorite.