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Don’t Look for Me

Review

Don’t Look for Me

From internationally bestselling author Wendy Walker comes DON’T LOOK FOR ME, a gripping and emotionally taut thriller about a missing mother and a ticking clock.

Today is the five-year anniversary of the death of Molly Clarke’s youngest daughter, Annie. During that time, Molly has watched her family fall apart and reunite as she has tried to keep them --- and herself --- together. With the pain only a mother knows, she has seen her oldest child, Nicole, drown her pain in vodka and flings; driven four hours back and forth to her son’s football games; and slept side-by-side with her increasingly distant husband. But Molly knows she deserves all of this and more; after all, she was the one driving the car that hit her daughter.

With the anniversary bringing back painful memories for her loved ones, Molly knows she should be with them, not driving home from her son’s boarding school in the middle of a hurricane. But maybe she's catastrophizing the situation and it's really not that bad; as her husband always reminds her, she has to stop being “so Molly” about everything. When her car runs out of gas and strands her on the side of the road, she is relieved when a truck stops to ask if she needs help. As a grown woman, she knows better than to go off with a strange man, but his daughter is also in the vehicle. Desperate to get home, she hops in. So begins day one of her entrapment.

"DON’T LOOK FOR ME is one of the most legitimately thrilling and terrifying suspense novels I have ever read. Although this is not the sort of mystery where the conclusion comes totally out of left field, I feel confident in saying that very few readers will guess it."

Told in alternate storylines, Walker brings us weeks into the future, writing in Nicole's voice. In the days following her mother’s disappearance, a note is found in a hotel room telling Molly’s family not to look for her, that she has gone off to punish herself and make room for their happiness without her. The police deem the case a “walk-away” and stop searching for Molly. But something about the situation doesn’t sit right with Nic. She knows they argued that morning, and she said terrible things that she can never take back. But she also is aware that she too played a role in Annie's death and cannot believe that her mother would leave her to shoulder the burden alone. When a woman calls claiming to have seen Molly the night she disappeared, Nic sets off for Hastings, the town where her mother’s car was found.

In a chilling chronicle, Walker walks us through each day of Molly’s abduction. Trapped in a decrepit and dusty home with an eerie child who bears a striking resemblance to her late daughter, Molly struggles to understand why the man who picked her up chose her and fights to escape. Meanwhile, we look on as Nic learns more about Hastings, an incestuous and bizarre town where everyone knows everyone, strangers are not trusted, and, it seems to Nic, everyone is lying about something. With both women hunting down the truth, Walker throws twist after chilling twist at her readers until it seems that everyone has the potential to be a villain.

I am a longtime fan of Wendy Walker, and though I am constantly surprised by her attention to detail and perfect pacing, I always feel like I have some idea of what to expect. That ended this week. DON’T LOOK FOR ME is one of the most legitimately thrilling and terrifying suspense novels I have ever read. Although this is not the sort of mystery where the conclusion comes totally out of left field, I feel confident in saying that very few readers will guess it. Walker never shies away from exposing the more violent and dark corners of society, but without a doubt this is her scariest book yet. Everything from the small-town vibe to the dangerous man and the creepy kid sent chills down my spine, and I am not ashamed to admit that I jumped a few times while reading.

As always, Walker infuses her writing with a real-world observation, this time about the dual role played by women, especially mothers. Molly’s guilt about Annie's death is painful enough, but even worse is Nic’s complex emotions about her mother. Molly is the source of Nic’s warmest, most love-filled memories, but she also has caused her unending grief, and Walker thrusts this dichotomy into the spotlight to open up a larger conversation about how we as a society view women, particularly those who care for us. When we meet Molly’s family, they are united only in their hatred of her, and yet she has provided them all with great comfort by shouldering this guilt quietly and without any sense of revenge or retribution.

I think any woman who reads about Molly and Nic will find something to relate to, and the pressure each feels is painfully familiar. Walker’s ability to weave trauma into her books has always been one of her strengths, but her dissection of motherhood feels like a new height for her, one that she reaches with her dependably sharp insight and emotional acuity.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on September 18, 2020

Don’t Look for Me
by Wendy Walker