Book Review: The Missing One by Lucy Atkins

The Missing One (click on book or see below for description)
By Lucy Atkins
Releases 2/3/15
Provided free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 bones

Keeping my 2015 good streak going – this book did not disappoint.  I guess true with most mysteries where someone is searching for something, but this one reminded me of my last read “Little Black Lies” in that the main character, Kali, was searching for answers on just who her mother was.

The book begins with the death of Kali’s (Kal as she prefers to be called) mother, Elena.  When Kal enters her late mother’s office in search of her birth certificate, she discovers 37 years worth of postcards from someone named Susannah, that simply say “Thinking of you.”  As she thinks on it, Kali realizes she doesn’t really know much about her parents, especially her mother.  Her father, still in the picture, is not very helpful with answers (and thinks someone’s past is their own) and her sister, Alice, who always had a very different relationship with her mother, doesn’t seem to know much more.  So Kali, in quite the mid-life crisis of her own, convinced her husband is cheating on her, acts quite impulsively, and telling no one boards a plane to Vancouver in search on answers.  And oh yeah, she brings her toddler, Finn with her.

I had a love/hate relationship with Kal.  In the beginning, I really could relate to her.  Having a young kid(s), a husband with a thriving career that keeps him away from home more than anyone would like, quite the planner, and wanting to know why her mother always had a wall up between her and even her son (not that last part personally – but wanting answers to everything!)  But then when she starts on this adventure, I tried to imagine what I would do in that situation (praying that I never would be) and just lost touch with her and wanted to scream at her (especially because she had her young child with her and you’ll find out something else later that will/may enrage you too!)  That didn’t take away from the story, as I’m not sure I can say I really liked any of the characters!  (Great for the story, bad if they were in my life!)

Once Kal gets to Vancouver, she easily locates Susannah, and upon meeting her, something is just off.  I never really trusted her, and I’m sure that was intentional.   But Kal, with Finn’s safety and comfort at the top of her list, chooses to trust her…

The anticipation in this book was so, incredibly thick.  I was frantically turning pages, possibly holding my breath, just knowing something was about to happen.   And when it does, prepare to hang on to the very end and prepare for ANYTHING!  I had some guesses throughout, some were on point, others off, but it was definitely not predictable.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but the book cover (seen above) is a little teaser in and of itself.  Kal does pry (and yes I mean painfully pry) information about her mother from Susannah very slowly.  First and foremost, she found out she was a pioneering orca (killer whale) researcher and activist in the 70’s.  Some of these details hurt my heart, a lot, as an animal advocate myself.  And strange timing, one morning while reading this book, I turned on the TODAY show and the story was about a captive orca, Lolita and that her release back to the wild was still a hot topic of debate.  So much to my dismay, orcas are still facing the same issues they were 40 years ago.  But I found the topic of orcas fascinating and an intricate part of this book.


I could go on, this book had so much going on and kept me hanging on to every word to the very end.  As facts filled in though, I still had a few questions at the end.  I’m one who likes everything wrapped up neatly, and while most things were, some I felt were not.  Maybe I missed it in my fast reading, but I’m usually pretty good!  Let me know if you read this book and I’d love to chat.  And do read this book, it’s a good one!

Thank you to NetGalley and Quercus (US) for allowing me to preview this great book!  Can’t wait for Ms. Atkin’s next one!

Book Description:

In her gripping debut novel The Missing One, Lucy Atkins takes us to the beautiful and rugged Pacific Northwest, where one woman endeavors to discover the dark secrets of her family’s past in order to understand and accept herself.

Kal McKenzie was never close to her mother Elena, whose coldness towards her spoiled any chance of a good relationship. When Elena dies of cancer, Kal feels forlorn; how do you mourn a mother who, inexplicably, just didn’t seem to love you?
While clearing out Elena’s art studio, Kal finds a drawer packed with postcards, each bearing an identical one-line message from a woman named Susannah Gillespie: “Thinking of you.” Who is this woman and does she hold the key to her ruined relationship with her mother?
Having recently seen a covetous text from an old girlfriend on her husband’s cell phone, Kal, dismayed over her mother’s death and disillusioned by her marriage, impulsively sets off with her toddler Finn to Susannah’s home and art gallery on a remote British Columbian island, a place of storms and killer whales.
When Kal reaches the island, the striking and enigmatic Susannah will only share a few scraps of information about Elena. Kal discovers that her mother was a pioneering orca researcher and activist.
As Kal struggles to piece together her mother’s career and relationship with Susannah, Susannah’s behavior grows more and more erratic. Most worrying of all, Susannah is becoming increasingly preoccupied with little Finn.
Told in competing narratives of past and present, The Missing One intermixes Kal’s journey with her mother’s coming of a age as a woman, scientist and activist. As these two narratives converge the novel transforms into a white-knuckle thriller where the secrets of the past threaten to tear Kal’s family apart.

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