My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Thomas & Mercer, and the author via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book is due to be published on the 7th of February 2019.
Actual rating of 3.75 stars.
Beth and Sally have kept the promise, the secret, for over 20 years now. They’ve never told a soul what happened when they were 14 and still best friends with Carol. Inseparable, attached at the hip, but no longer. Carol often pops into their minds but for the most part, they’ve put the past behind them. Until they receive letters stating that the St. Colman Convent, the girl’s old boarding school, is closing down and set to be redeveloped. After all this time, is their past going to come back and haunt them? More than it already does? The death that happened, the secret they kept all these years, Beth and Sally are at a loss of what to do. They start an insane journey to find Carol, get in contact with her, so they can ask her opinion, what she wants to do. She’s the third girl in this promise, and Beth doesn’t want to continue without her go ahead. But as they search and search, coming up with nothing, their anxieties rise higher, beginning to effect Beth’s home life and Sally’s sanity. All the guilt from what happened so long ago spilling over into their present day lives. What happened when they were 14? What is the big secret that they’re so afraid of? And what has happened to Carol? Where is she?
This is a gritty psychological thriller, it switches between three different points of view – Beth, Matthew and Carol. Carol’s point of view is written mostly in diary entries so we’re still not sure what’s actually going on with her or why she has become so distant. The story focuses mainly on the promise obviously, drip feeding us small tidbits, enough for us to form our own opinions of what actually happened when the girls were attending boarding school, but as I found out in the end, not actually divulging anything that could force us to uncover the truth without the story doing it for us. Well, that’s for me anyway. I had absolutely NO idea that the story would turn out how it did, and it definitely upped my rating in the end.
I believe that Driscoll portrays the uncomfortable, anxiety of resurgent guilt from a past mistake. I honestly felt anxious for the characters while they stumbled through this story absolutely terrified that their secret would come out, that everyone would know what happened, and that their lives would be completely destroyed because of it. Holding something so terrible in for so long would almost become like a background sound – white noise – constantly threaded through the everyday lives of someone. Driscoll’s portrayal of the depression that completely clouds Beth as she struggles to deal with the possible ramifications of this is wonderful. Being someone who lives with depression, I feel that she got the feelings one experiences when in a depression rut rather well. Even though it was honestly only a tiny part of Beth’s story, I felt that it was important anyway, and she pulled it off. The descriptions of going through the motions but not really being present, of feeling stuck in a fog that is cutting you off from your loved ones, and your life in general, was on point for me. Her loved ones becoming increasingly worried, and her assuring them that she’s fine, that everything’s fine, while actually trying to BE fine because of her two young boys.
Sally was written fantastically. And this is the point where I will put in a trigger warning. At the very beginning of the book when we’re transported to Beth and Sally in 2009 – there is details of a miscarriage. So if you think you will have trouble dealing with reading about such a horrible experience, I’d probably suggest against reading this one. It’s not super graphic or anything, but the detail into how Sally herself was effected, they way that she was as it happened, is pretty descriptive. So I can imagine that it would be incredibly hard to read for some. There are other trigger warnings that I will put here, that have to do with abuse, domestic abuse, and rape. This is not as light a read as I thought it would be. It dealt heavily with hard subjects, but I feel that it was done well. These subjects were not included for shock factor, they had impacts on the story as well as the characters, they were woven through this story wonderfully and they really did add another dimension to it. I feel that the book would not have been the same had it chosen to forgo inclusion of these themes.
Matthew was okay, we get to know a bit about him, but he’s not completely in the forefront of this story, he is the private investigator hired by Beth and Sally when they decide to ramp up their search for Carol. He was a nice addition to the story, and it would not have been the same without him in it.
I love that Driscoll dealt with so many things in here. The themes mentioned above, as well as the loss of a parent and how it can impact someone’s whole life. The struggles for some students who attend boarding schools, spending majority of their young life away from their family. I can’t really say much more with giving away too much of the story itself.
The reveal was fantastic. When we finally find out what the bit secret was, I thought that everything would start to descend back towards the bottom of the proverbial mountain, ready to be tied up into a nice little bow, but oh I was wrong. So much more is revealed than I originally thought was even happening. We get answers to everything and more. Everything begins to make sense. The only word I have for the last 5 odd chapters is explosive. The revelations, the reasons, the surprises, phenomenal.
The reason that my review is not higher, is that at times, I felt that the story lagged a bit. Pacing was a bit slower than I like and I found myself looking at where I was in the book and thinking “Really? I still have 30% to go??”. But other than this, I can’t pick much fault with it. It was a great book but it didn’t hit that giddy, unbelievable, butterfly inducing 5 star rating for me. When I was near the end, thinking back on the story itself, it sometimes felt like a mess of strands that were all tangled up and it was impossible to see which thread went where. Though once I got to the ending, it was as though the ball of mess had untangled itself. I believe that this feeling of chaos actually probably lent even more realness to the story itself. We are thrown into such a chaotic story that we can’t help but feel empathy for these characters and what they’re going through.