Bell is an accomplished storyteller who is equally adept at both character development and plot advancement. I first read his “Someone I Used To Know” last year and was riveted by the nuances of his characters’ personalities. The same is true of “Since She Went Away.” I was invested in these characters by the end of chapter one and put the book down only once.
This is basically the story of RN Jenna Barton, a single mom, and her teenaged son Jared, detailing how their quiet lives in tiny Hawks Mill, Kentucky were up heaved by the disappearance of Jenna’s best friend, Celia, three months prior. Jenna was supposed to meet Celia at their special spot in the park at midnight, where they used to meet as high school BFFs, in an effort to try to revive their lost closeness. When Jenna arrived 15 minutes late, due to finding a bottle of alcohol in Jared’s room and addressing that with him, Celia was gone. The only trace of her was a single diamond earring from a pair that was a family heirloom.
The author does an excellent job of describing the guilt that Jenna feels, as well as the toll it takes on her personally, her teenaged son, her mother, and everyone in her life. The entire town, actually. That guilt is almost palpable on the pages of this novel. Things are complicated by the fact that Ian, Celia’s husband and father of their daughter Ursula, first was attracted to Jenna, not Celia, in high school. Celia then made it her goal to divert Ian’s attention away from Jenna. Although Jenna has always resented that, she did nothing at the time since it was just assumed by everyone that Celia was to get everything she desired. Jenna’s grief for Celia has resurrected this gnawing resentment. When Jared falls for the beautiful but oddly-behaving new girl at school, the tension in the Bartons’ lives ramps up.
Bell then takes us on a fascinating roller coaster ride of plot shakeups. At times it seemed that Celia was surely dead, but then she was sighted in the area where her family had vacationed for years. Jared and his mother share a rather willful and stubborn temperament, which Bell uses to get them involved in various situations to amp up the suspense. There is no resolution until the last few pages of the book, when all is shockingly revealed.
Definitely a great read for your summer book list. It is well written with intelligent, relatable characters and plot developments that are well paced as well as surprising and credible. David Bell is a relatively new author who has established himself with this sixth novel as a solid storyteller. His name on a title assures that the pages within are definitely worth your time.
I was given an advance copy of this title by the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Although the release date is June 21, this title can be pre-ordered at the major book vendors and Collier County Public Library is taking requests.
Happy Father’s Day! Happy first day of summer!
Maggie Gust has been an avid reader all her life. Her past includes working as a teacher, as well as various occupations in the healthcare field. She shares a hometown, Springfield, Illinois, with Abraham Lincoln, but Florida has been her home since 1993. Genealogy, reading, movies and writing are among her favorite activities. She is self-employed and works from her Naples home. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or maggiesbookinblog.com.