Eden feels like the luckiest woman in the world. She is recently married, her husband adores her, and they’ve just moved to a gorgeous new cottage overlooking the sea – the perfect place to raise a family. But as one pregnancy test after another comes back negative, Eden’s happiness begins to slip away, and soon she is all-consumed with desperate longing for a child. With her marriage feeling the strain too, Eden is nearly at breaking point, and one fateful day, she makes a split-second decision that will change her life forever…
In her mother Eden’s last, gruelling week of life Jessie Sloane’s sleeplessness begins. At first it’s one night, then two, and by the time Eden dies from the cancer that has plagued her for years, Jessie has full-blown insomnia. In the first awful days after her mother’s death, Jessie can do little but walk around in a daze, but soon she remembers her mother’s dying wish that Jessie forge a new path for herself after many years as Eden’s sole carer.
Still wracked with grief and near delirious from lack of sleep, Jessie is determined to honour her mother’s wishes nonetheless, and begins by finding a new place to live. She even fills out a college application online, but when a financial aid officer from the college calls, Jessie’s plans hit an unexpected road bump. Jessie’s social security number has raised a red flag, and apparently belongs to a child named Jessica Sloane who died seventeen years ago.
Surely this must be a mistake, Jessie thinks, but things get even stranger when she begins sorting through her mother’s papers. Not once did her mother claim Jessie as a dependent on her tax returns, and Jessie’s birth certificate is nowhere to be found either. Suddenly questioning all she’s ever known about herself, Jessie sets out to find the truth, but her chronic insomnia makes it harder and harder for her to distinguish between what’s real and imagined. Can Jessie uncover who she really is? Or will insomnia take her mind before she can find out?
When the Lights Go Out is another emotionally charged thriller from Mary Kubica, author of the gripping 2014 phenomenon, The Good Girl. Told from alternating points of view, the drama in When the Lights Go Out unfolds slowly but surely, each chapter simmering with more and more tension until Eden’s and Jessie’s stories collide, and everything boils over. Both Eden and Jessie are unreliable narrators (Jessie in particular, with her insomnia-induced hallucinations and paranoia), and this only adds to the tension, suspense and danger.
As per her previous four novels, Kubica has a real knack for crafting complex and complicated female characters, and the reader is reeled in and kept hooked as Eden and Jessie grapple with marriage, infertility, motherhood, illness, obsession and identity. The characters’ inner and outer turmoil over these issues is masterfully portrayed, and it’s interesting to read a thriller interwoven with so many female themes.
If you’re on the lookout for the perfect slow-burn psychological thriller, look no further than When the Lights Go Out.
About the author:
Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in history and American literature. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening and caring for the animals at a local shelter. Her first novel, The Good Girl, was published to widespread acclaim in 2014, and she has now written five books. Her latest, When the Lights Go Out was released in 2018.