Thursday, October 10, 2019

When She Returned by Lucinda Berry

One woman’s reappearance throws her family into turmoil, exposing dark secrets and the hidden, often devastating truth of family relationships.

Kate Bennett vanished from a parking lot eleven years ago, leaving behind her husband and young daughter. When she shows up at a Montana gas station, clutching an infant and screaming for help, investigators believe she may have been abducted by a cult.

Kate’s return flips her family’s world upside down—her husband is remarried, and her daughter barely remembers her. Kate herself doesn’t look or act like she did before.

While the family tries to help Kate reintegrate into society, they discover truths they’ve been hiding from each other about their own relationships. But they aren’t the only ones with secrets. As the family unravels what happened to Kate, a series of shocking revelations shows that Kate’s return is more sinister than any of them could have imagined.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Avid Reader☆☆☆☆
M/F Psychological Thriller
Triggers: Click HERE to see Avid Reader’s review on Goodreads for trigger warnings.

Kate and Scott have been married for a while now. They know each other so well, that sometimes, they know each other better than they know themselves. But Kate is keeping a big secret from Scott. She's unhappy in their current situation. She misses working. Kate loves their daughter, Abbi, but wants to get back to work. Scott wants Kate to love being a stay-at-home mom and can't truly understand why she isn't fulfilled.

Abbi is only five years old when her mom goes missing. Years later, Kate is found clinging to a new baby, wandering from the woods.

What follows is a tale that unravels and boggles the mind. Was Kate kidnapped and held against her will? It sure seems that she has lived through trauma that renders her unable to fully integrate back into society.

Meanwhile, her family is left to help her pick up the pieces and adjust their own lives. Scott has remarried and Abbi, despite not being incredibly grateful for her new family life, Abbi is just trying to catch her own breath.

For me, Scott treated his wife, Meredith, with extreme disdain. I had a very difficult time getting past that. Despite all that has happened in their lives, he was a very poor example of a husband, in my opinion.

This psychological thriller did keep you on your toes. I think that if Scott and Abbi, even Meredith had been stronger characters, I would have enjoyed the book more. But the wishy-washiness of those three characters made me wish for something different.

When She Returned was an interesting, complicated story told from three different points of view.

A family is destroyed when the mother and wife goes missing from a parking lot. Her keys are in the ignition, purse on the floor, groceries in the trunk...

We read this story through Abbi's eyes in the present time. She's the teenage daughter who lost her mother (when she was a toddler) and has lived with her father for 10+ years, both still grieving the loss. Abbi is the character whom I feel has lost the most. She has lived her whole life with not knowing her mother, not remembering anything save what her father relays.

Meredith is the current wife. She's also a widow and met Scott in a grief counseling group. I feel like Meredith is the grounding force in this story. She has enough sense to speak up when necessary, and the grace to bite her tongue when needed.

Kate is the missing person, her story is told in the past tense. She was married to the love of her life, her high school sweetheart, and staying home to raise their precious daughter. She put her journalism career on hold to do this and was excited to start writing again.

I wasn't expecting the story I read, I truly thought I knew what was going on! I liked the dynamic between Scott, Meredith, and Kate. Having said that, I will say that Scott was probably my least favorite character. I think I can empathize with him, but I hated the way he treated Meredith.
This is my first read by Lucinda Berry, but it most certainly won't be my last.

This is a disturbing and sometimes creepy psychological puzzle and I couldn’t put it down. Told from three perspectives – two in the present and one in the past – the book explores a family shattered by a mother’s disappearance and reappearance 11 years later. It’s a difficult and intense read but I loved the way the pieces of this dark puzzle slowly fell into place.

I love that none of the narrators in this story are entirely reliable. The teenage daughter Abbi’s voice is probably the most honest, but she acknowledges that she only knows her mother through her father’s stories. Interestingly, readers only know the father’s story through the voices of the female narrators. Kate’s voice is terribly flawed, and her narrative constantly challenges readers. As readers, we know more about Kate’s experiences during her disappearance than the other two narrators do, but we can’t trust her explanations and I was constantly re-evaluating my reactions and my feelings towards her. The stepmother, Meredith, attempts to come across as a neutral observer, but she’s highly invested in the situation. I’m not sure any of the three adult characters are likeable – but the most disturbing thing for me is that each of them has moments when they feel human and relatable.

It’s difficult to review this type of novel without spoilers. It is a compelling read but there were elements of the story which I struggled to find plausible. I don’t feel like we see enough to understand how the strong journalist we meet in the beginning – a woman who resents giving up her career to stay home with a young child – makes the decisions she does later in the book. There are a few threads left hanging at the end and I’m not sure whether they needed tying up or if it’s better that we’re left wondering if or how the family moves on from such a horrific incident.

This book has a punchy start, which sets up the drama, gives us an idea of who Abbi, Scott, and Meredith are, and who Kate was. For me, Meredith was the most likeable adult, and by the end I felt she definitely deserved better!

As we discover how the past played out for Kate, I did not stop thinking about the family left behind, or the life they were living in her absence. It is impossible to overstate how the experience has changed her, and the woman that Scott grew up with and married is gone.

I do enjoy stories such as this, which make you think about how you would cope in such a situation, but I realised that I only do it as the person left behind, not the one that left. I admit that this probably coloured my view of the story, but it was fascinating to realise this!

Dr. Lucinda Berry is a trauma psychologist and leading researcher in childhood trauma. She uses her clinical experience to create disturbing psychological thrillers, blurring the lines between fiction and nonfiction. She enjoys taking her readers on a journey through the dark recesses of the human psyche. If she's not chasing her ten-year-old son around, you can find her running through the streets of Los Angeles prepping for her next marathon.

Connect with Lucinda

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of When She Returned by Lucinda Berry to read and review.

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