When I think about that morning, it is beat by beat, like a heart – my own heart, my daughter’s, at the time so enmeshed it seemed she was part of me: my body, my tissue, my bones. She is part of me. She will always be part of me.
When I think about that morning, I watch myself, over and over, as if from above. I watch myself like you watch your children in a school play or a sports match, silently willing them to succeed, to shine, to not get hurt. I watch myself bleeding on the sidelines of slowly unfolding disaster, alive with the pain I know is coming but she, the me of that moment, does not.
I do this every minute of every hour of every day. And I have done this for almost a year.
I watch myself: there I am, making my way downstairs with an armful of laundry. I can’t see over the top. I take it slowly, both feet on one step before I lower myself to the next. Another step down, another. I am always so careful these days. I used to be carefree, but now I see danger everywhere: an electric socket is a hazard, a glass left too near the edge of a tabletop risky, a staircase perilous.
Another step. I call her name. Abi.
ABOUT THE HOUSEWARMING: Everyone is going to the housewarming party.
All the same people who lived on the street the day Abi vanished…
Will her mother finally learn the truth?
Ava only left her daughter in the pushchair for five minutes. The buckle was fastened, and she was sure it was safe. But when she came downstairs, the door was open and Abi was gone – she walked down the road, past the Lovegoods’ house, and was never seen again.
A year later, the Lovegoods throw a housewarming party, showing off the results of their renovation. Ava doesn’t want to go. She can’t bear to look down that end of the road, to see the place where Abi vanished, and she doesn’t want to spend time with people who don’t share her grief. Her husband Matt persuades her: he’s worried about her. A night out might do her good.
But as her friends and neighbours chat, and the drink and gossip flows, Ava learns something new about the day she has re-lived a thousand times. A throwaway comment which could change everything.
Ava thought she knew every last detail of that day.
She’s about to find out she was wrong…
MY THOUGHTS: The opening chapters left me stunned and breathless. And it didn’t stop there. The pace is relentless. The tension palpable. As is the grief, the despair, the guilt. Lynes has written a blockbuster of human emotion that left me exhausted, drained, wrung out, and absolutely certain that this is the best book she has ever written!
The characters are superbly depicted. They are complete. They are you. They are me. They are our husbands and wives, our friends and neighbours. They gossip and assume. They are horrified, and smug. They have their own pristine lives that they don’t want touched by tragedy. Ava becomes isolated, a prisoner of her anxiety and her feeling of being contagious in her unresolved guilt and grief.
Her neighbour Jen is the only person she feels any connection with. Jen, who never pressures her, who lets her just be. So when Jen throws a party to celebrate the end of the renovations on their house, Ava reluctantly agrees to attend, just for an hour. And there begins the unravelling of everything Ava thought she knew about Abi’s disappearance.
Gripping. Heartwrenching. Devastating. Dark. The Housewarming lives up to every promotional promise.
‘My eyes are incontinent.’
THE AUTHOR: After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a Radio Producer at the BBC before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome, where she lived for five years. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She combines writing with teaching at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children in Teddington, Middlesex.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Housewarming by S.E. Lynes for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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