Reviewed by Lotte
This book was unnerving because it was so believable! It’s the subtlety and simplicity that show it really could happen and that’s what makes it a great, unsettling psychological thriller.
Esther and her mum, Hannah, live in a bunker completely off grid. It’s all Esther has ever known – a life of isolation with just her Mum (and of course Mr Wiffles), living inside, with a high spec air filtration system, hazmat suits for going outside, regimented routines etc. For Hannah, this came about because Esther has asthma and she became terrified and determined to keep her safe. Mumford has written this book in a character focused way that shows us both sides – the lengths mum went to keep Esther safe before they even moved to the bunker, the reasons behind her actions and all she’s sacrificed; as well as Esther, how normal it was for her before she realised there was a whole world out there and learning that what she thinks is true might actually be wrong. This all starts to unravel when a stranger turns up, knowing things about Esther. He shows her she doesn’t need to be as cautious as she believes but the suspense woven into the storyline keeps you on tenterhooks just incase – what if mum was right and something will happen. So even as the plot unravelled and different things were revealed it still felt uncertain. Mr Wiffles was a great addition with his whit and humour as well as adding to the distorted reality Esther was living in.
The first half of the book was really good but a little slow, however, I feel that added to this sense of normality that Mumford was trying to create. The second half moved a little faster, so much so that some things felt a little off-kilter, as in, would she really do that after growing up the way she has. The story went from one extreme to another but perhaps that added to the suspense that it could all go wrong. And we truly didn’t find out for sure if Esther was ok or whether Mum was right. There were many twists and turns that added to this suspense and sense of unknown as well as giving us some great shock moments.
This was a good book with a well paced plot and fully developed characters. It wasn’t extreme but the eerie element of realness kept the book gripping throughout.
Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this ARC.