A forsaken family bound by grief still struggles to pick up the pieces 12 years after their mother’s death.
When famous author Gil Coleman sees “his dead wife standing on the pavement below” from a bookshop window in a small town on the southern coast of England, he follows her, but to no avail, and takes a near-fatal fall off a walkway on the beach. As soon as they hear word of his accident, Gil’s grown daughters, Nan and Flora, drop everything and return to their seaside family home in Spanish Green. Though her father’s health is dire, Flora, Gil’s youngest, can’t help but be consumed by the thought that her mother, Ingrid—who went missing and presumably drowned (though the body was never found) off the coast more than a decade ago—could be alive, wandering the streets of their town. British author Fuller’s second novel (Our Endless Numbered Days, 2015) is nimbly told from two alternating perspectives: Flora’s, as she re-evaluates the loose ends of her mother’s ambiguous disappearance; and Ingrid’s, through a series of candid letters she writes, but never delivers, to Gil in the month leading up to the day she vanishes. The most compelling parts of this novel unfold in Ingrid’s letters, in which she chronicles the dissolution of her 16-year marriage to Gil, beginning when they first meet in 1976: Gil is her alluring professor, they engage in a furtive love affair, and fall into a hasty union precipitated by an unexpected pregnancy; Gil gains literary fame, and Ingrid is left to tackle motherhood alone (including two miscarriages); and it all bitterly culminates in the discovery of an irrevocable betrayal. Unbeknownst to Gil and his daughters, these letters remain hidden, neglected, in troves of books throughout the house, and the truth lies seductively within reach. Fuller’s tale is eloquent, harrowing, and raw, but it’s often muddled by tired, cloying dialogue. And whereas Ingrid shines as a protagonist at large, the supporting characters are lacking in depth.
Simmering with tension, this tragic, albeit imperfect, mystery is sure to keep readers inching off their seats.