Emma in the Night
Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
“I know that we all need people. But I can’t ignore what’s in my head. Everyone I could ever trust, everyone you could ever trust, could betray you. It doesn’t matter who they are or whether they mean to do it. They don’t think twice about it. But others do it and they justify it in their heads so you can’t even blame them. They have their reasons.”
Two sisters go missing. One comes back. The race to find the lost girl is rekindled after three years of wondering. As straightforward as this outline may sound, Wendy Walker has spun a web that is anything but straightforward.
Cassandra returns to her family after three years of being held captive by a couple on an isolated island. She is fiercely determined to return and find Emma, the sister she left behind in her escape, and weaves an intricate story to explain to her parents and the FBI team on the case. Long-rooted family tension, pregnancy, narcissism disorder, and even murder are just a few of the plot points throughout the novel.
I have to be honest. As much as I enjoyed the unique trajectory Walker’s story took, it was a mild chore to get through the first two thirds of it. Seemingly endless explanations of neurotic narcissism and long explanatory monologues weigh down what might’ve otherwise be a heart-pounding read. Although the narcissistic mother is a powerful villain that struck chords in my own heart, I felt that her disorder was shoved a bit too forcefully down my throat. Instead of portraying any dynamic scenes, the story of the sisters’ journey is explained to us through flashback and memory, making it difficult to dive too deeply into the twists and turns.
As Cass tells her story, the lies and truth intertwine, and by the end of the novel, we find that most of what we read was a fabricated tale. To me, this is as unsatisfying as a horror movie that ends as the protagonist wakes up from a nightmare. I didn’t fully connect or understand many of Cass’s motives. When I finally closed the book, I couldn’t help but feel that I could’ve skipped over entire chapters and saved a lot of time without any confusion-which isn’t really what I’m seeking out of a psychological thriller.
To Walker’s credit, the idea of narcissism as a main character flaw is new and exciting to me, and the story that the characters endure is strikingly distinct. Refreshingly, Leigh gave so little away throughout the suspense that I was never able to predict anything, and the final plot twist genuinely took me by surprise.