Sunday, December 03, 2023


Title: Gone Tonight  

Author: Sarah Pekkanen

Publisher: St Martin’s Press

Pages: 336

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


I had high expectations from the book from the Dedication itself. It was a quote from author Fennel Hudson, who has written a series of journals about leading a quiet life. The quote says, “Find a part of yourself hidden in the twilight.’


Interesting how a quote from such a journal should have inspired a plot like this.


Catherine and Ruth Sterling are the only family each knows. Their world is small and it’s about to get smaller. Because Ruth is beginning to forget; she is showing signs of dementia, and daughter Catherine, training to be a nurse, can see the symptoms. On the cusp of moving out to another city to pursue her dreams, she knows she can’t possibly leave her mother alone in this condition. And that’s exactly what Ruth wants: to prevent her daughter from leaving her side.


But Catherine has many questions and she’s old enough to rebel, to give up the itinerant life. Moving every few years, never making any friends, her mother constantly looking over her shoulder.


Now with time running out before her mother’s memories are completely gone, Catherine needs to know about her mother’s past, her family and the man she thinks of as her sperm donor.


The mother and daughter begin to try to deceive the other, the one to protect her daughter from the horrible secrets of her past, and the latter to ferret out those very secrets. Both are suspicious of each other, wary of each other’s secrets, but their love holds them together. Meanwhile, there’s a danger getting ever closer, hurtling towards them.


The book is written in the first person PoVs of Catherine and her mother, Ruth, in alternate chapters.


Speaking of women, Ruth says, We vanish in the eyes of men when we hit our forties. We dive into roles like motherhood and our identities slip away. We disappear at the hands of predators. We’re conditioned to shrink, to drop weight, to take up less physical space in the world.


Our brains form memories constantly from the second we wake until we fall asleep. But if the moment we mentally capture doesn’t interest with our attention, we lose the recollection forever. Emotional significance also helps move our memories into our longer-term stockpiles.


I appreciated the bits about Alzheimer’s Disease that the author inserted into the story.


The only issue for me was that for the greater part of the book, Ruth and Catherine are just dancing around each other. It’s frustrating for us. The secrets are revealed slowly, closer to the end, when the pace picks up.


My feelings towards both of them changed as the book progressed. The secret when it finally blows up is certainly huge, but I had serious questions about how Ruth managed her life, particularly when Catherine was a baby. It’s not as easy as the lack of detail has us believe.


Also, why couldn’t Ruth have told her daughter the secret? They would have understood each other better, and have been able to deal with it together.


But then we wouldn’t have had this delicious plot that managed to ratchet up the tension towards the end, and deliver on its promise.


 (I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 


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