Title: Good as Gone: A Novel of Suspense
Author: Gentry, Amy (Author’s Website)
Bibliographic: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 288 pages, Hardcover List Price $23.00, Audiobook LIst Price $20.99, Audiobook CD List Price $24.99, ISBNs 9780544920958, 9780544916074
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Rating: ★★★☆☆/♥♥♥♡♡ (The rating scale is here).
Appeal Factors: Multiple perspectives, flawed characters, intricately plotted, suspenseful, compelling
S.I.A.S.: Eight years ago, Julie was kidnapped from her bedroom at knifepoint, but now she’s home — if it’s really her.
Summary: Eight years ago, Jane awoke in the middle of the night to see a strange man taking her sister Julie away. She hid in the closet for three hours before telling her parents, who promptly called 911 — but it was too late. Julie was gone. Soon, the search was on, but to no avail. By the time the story opens, Jane and her parents (Anna and Tom) have settled into a new normal. Jane has just returned home from her first year of college, and as the three sit down to a celebratory dinner the doorbell rings. Just like that, Julie is home again.
It’s not too long before Anna starts to notice that Julie has been lying — the story she told the police about being sold to a human trafficking ring doesn’t quite add up. She has a cell phone that she failed to mention. She has a tattoo. She has a miscarriage, which she claims was an ovarian cyst. Then Anna gets a phone call from a private investigator, who has also noticed some inconsistencies in the story. As the information about the woman claiming to be Julie grows, Anna becomes more and more convinced that this is not her daughter.
Evaluation: I devoured this book. I read the whole thing in one sitting. The plot was extremely compelling, and the ending was pretty much the opposite of what I expected (which was really refreshing, given how impostor stories usually go). There was one moment near the end — at the Water Wall — where Anna comes to a realization about the woman claiming to be Julie that felt a little forced to me, but the actions taken as a result of the realization seemed well within the scope of her character as established. I also really loved the chapters that took the reader back through “Julie’s” life, from the present to the very beginning. They had just the right amount of detail to leave me a little confused and wanting more.
Jane, Tom, and Alex Mercado (the private investigator) were less well-developed and fit fairly neatly into tropes: Jane is the surly misunderstood teenager, Tom is the distant single-minded husband, and Alex basically just moves the story along. Alex was the worst character — his explanation for why he was working on Julie’s case seemed flimsy to me, and the small bit of information he reveals about his background did nothing to add to him. I understand why he was there, but I think the plot might have worked better if Anna had come across his information some other way — I would have liked to have seen Jane as a fan of Gretchen at Midnight, for example.
I think, and I’m not the only person to have said this, that this book is overtly trying to appeal to fans of Gone Girl, and while I don’t think that it’s as good as Gone Girl I do think that Gillian Flynn fans will find something to like here. It probably wouldn’t be the first book I’d recommend for people asking for Gone Girl or Girl on the Train readalikes, but if I were compiling a list about that question I would certainly include it. I’d also recommend it for people who are still fascinated by The Return of Martin Guerre — unless that’s just me.
I wasn’t crazy about the title, and I don’t think it really has much to do with the plot. I might have called the book “Julie,” or maybe “She’s back,” or something like that.
Significance: This book is probably going to be fairly popular, and is a good addition to the twisty-girls subgenre of thrillers.
- When did Anna start to question Julie’s identity? Do you think that, after eight years apart, it’s reasonable that a woman would have doubts about her daughter’s identity? Why didn’t Tom have the same doubts?
- Why do Julie and Charlie become friends? Why is she so susceptible to him?
- Throughout the novel, Anna is concerned with keeping her children safe. Are Julie and Jane ever really safe? Is anyone? How does this novel speak to our society’s fears about protecting children?
- Were you surprised by the ending, and by Julie’s true identity? Why or why not?
- Discuss the role Christianity plays in the book. Do you think Amy Gentry had a political agenda in mind while writing this? Why or why not?
Lists and Awards: None yet, but I won’t be surprised if this becomes a bestseller.