Publication Date: 3rd May 2018 from Penguin
Four missing days. Could you cope with not knowing?
Jen’s 15-year-old daughter goes missing for four agonizing days. When Lana is found, unharmed, in the middle of the desolate countryside, everyone thinks the worst is over. But Lana refuses to tell anyone what happened, and the police draw a blank. The once-happy, loving family return to London, where things start to fall apart. Lana begins acting strangely: refusing to go to school, and sleeping with the light on.
As Lana stays stubbornly silent, Jen desperately tries to reach out to a daughter who has become a stranger.
I was a huge fan of “Elizabeth Is Missing” which has taken on a whole new level of poignancy since my Mother started suffering from dementia, so I was intrigued to read another novel from Emma Healey. This time it’s a different central theme but just as beautifully written and emotionally resonant.
Whistle in the Dark is a story of family – especially of the mother/daughter relationship – we follow Jen as she struggles to connect with daughter Lana, especially after Lana goes missing for a few days and nobody knows what happened. Lana is silent on the subject, Jen feels inadequate, this has a beautifully realistic sense of parenting and a subtle exploration of teenage depression.
I related to Jen on a very basic level – she is baffled, a little clumsy both in word and deed and genuinely distraught at being unable to find the right words and the right actions to bring Lana close to her and understand her issues. She is funny, wryly ironic, realistically flawed whilst Lana is both engaging and infuriatingly perplexing, you can see why Jen struggles but at the heart of this is a relevant and intelligently woven theme.
This is less the story of what happened to Lana during those missing days and more a family drama that works wonderfully on many levels – the wider cast, including Jen’s long suffering husband, her oddball best friend and her mother all add to the whole and build an intriguing picture of the struggle to make sense of things. The finale when it comes is elegantly achieved and will linger in your thoughts for a good long while.
Whistle in the Dark is moving, whimsical and astutely authentic. I loved it.