It isn’t often that I come across a character who is shown to have very specific thoughts about life in general rather than just thoughts that pertain to the story. The characterization of the grieving mother was well-done, though it seemed strange that she would fixate on a man she just met after having been celibate for so long. The status of her daughter’s disappearance had not yet been determined, so it didn’t make sense to show her moving on before that.
I liked Laurel, even though her judgment (e.g. jumping in the sack on the second date) was questionable.
The author tells us (through another character) why Hanna was the way she was towards her mother, but we aren’t shown the interaction needed to substantiate this. Also, the mystery of Hanna’s boyfriend wasn’t fully explored.
There needed to be more to Noelle’s story–like why she was the way she was; however, the characters of Kate and Sara-Jade Virtue were extraneous.
Even though I always knew whose “turn” it was, I was so deeply engrossed in Laurel’s POV, I found it rather jarring when another character decided to tell their story; as it turned out, each character’s story was equally engrossing.
I’m glad that the perpetrator got their just desserts, and I felt for the strange little girl that Poppy was–wanting to drink champagne and talking (rather matter-of-factly) about how other kids thought she’s a bitch. Her lack of emotional intelligence at such a young age made me feel sorry for her, but at least we were privy to her backstory (unlike Noelle’s).
I’m glad that the wrap-up didn’t have the perp’s and the vic’s families keeping in touch or worse, becoming friends (I’ve always found that a little distasteful), even though the perp’s family were good people.
The plot was intricate, though I didn’t feel that the perp’s motives with Ellie were strong enough; then again, people have done more for less.
What made me sad was that it seemed like Laurel was the only one who was affected by Ellie’s disappearance for Ellie’s sake, rather than just for how it affected them.
Floyd’s swan song at the denouement brought it all together, though Ellie’s letter could’ve used a pinch more poignancy.
What sets this book apart from other mystery/suspense novels were the truths that were woven into it in the form of memorable quotes:
p. 20: Neither of them were setting the world alight but then whose children did? All those hopes and dreams and talk of ballerinas and pop stars, concert pianists and boundary-breaking scientists. They all ended up in an office. All of them.
p. 131: And then her child had died and she had found that somehow, incredibly, she could live without her, that she had woken every morning for a hundred days, a thousand days, three thousand days and she had lived without her.
p. 225: “You won’t understand how much I love you until you’re a mother yourself.”
Then She Was Gone is primarily a thriller but with a strong focus on a mother and the daughter who was left behind, as well as the mother’s mother who is waiting for her child to be happy again (sadly, it seems this can only happen with finding romantic love). The romance angle left me cold, especially with the way Floyd was so fixated on ten-year-old Poppy, seeing her as more his creation than his child–like a broken toy he had tinkered with for years until she was finally working properly–a toy good enough to give back to its rightful owner as atonement for someone else’s sins.