Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Book Review and Giveaway: Gone Tonight

Catherine Sterling thinks she knows her mother. Ruth Sterling is quiet, hardworking, and lives for her daughter. All her life, it's been just the two of them against the world. But now, Catherine is ready to spread her wings, move from home, and begin a new career. And Ruth Sterling will do anything to prevent that from happening.

Ruth Sterling thinks she knows her daughter. Catherine would never rebel, would never question anything about her mother's past or background. But when Ruth's desperate quest to keep her daughter by her side begins to reveal cracks in Ruth's carefully-constructed world, both mother and daughter begin a dance of deception. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Jami Denison:

Sarah Pekkanen has had an admirable career: She started out writing women’s fiction, transitioned into mysteries, then began co-authoring thrillers with her editor, Greer Hendricks. Her latest solo offering, the thriller Gone Tonight, shows that she’s absorbed all the lessons from these different genres to pen a captivating story that upends reader expectations with every plot point.

After being kicked out by her religious parents and disowned by her boyfriend, Ruth Sterling ran away from her Virginia home to raise her daughter Catherine all on her own. Like a grittier version of the Gilmore Girls, they were each other’s best friends. Ruth waitressed while Catherine would do her homework in a booth. They moved several times when the money ran out. But now Catherine is a newly graduated nurse, eager to start a job at Johns Hopkins, and things finally seem to be looking up. 

And then Ruth is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. She admits to Catherine that her own mother died of it several years ago. She didn’t tell Catherine because she didn’t want her to worry. 

Catherine is crushed. The Johns Hopkins job is now out of the question. How can she leave her mother to face this disease alone? How can she lose her mother when she knows so little of the woman’s past? And is there a chance that she’s inherited the Alzheimer’s gene? Wanting to know more about her mother before her memory slips away permanently, Catherine leaves her a journal and goes poking around in Ruth’s past. Slowly, Catherine begins to realize she never really knew Ruth at all. 

Catherine and the reader are in the same boat: Neither of us knows the real Ruth Sterling. Even though half the book is told through Ruth’s point-of-view, Pekkanen is a master of letting the reader know just enough that she’ll draw the wrong conclusion. Then she drops a twist that leaves you breathless. 

My only quibble with the book is that the pacing is a little slow in the beginning, when it seems this book is only about a daughter coming to grips with her mother’s medical diagnosis. But as soon as that first twist hits, the book takes off at a gallop, and the stakes get higher and higher. Both women are highly believable as they engage in a chess game that neither acknowledges. And while some of their actions are questionable, their motives never are. 

The only thing that remains constant throughout the book is the question of the inheritable brain disease, and what family members will do to protect each other from it. The nature of the disease, and what constitutes protection, provides that final twist.   

Melissa Amster:

I've been a Sarah Pekkanen fan ever since I devoured The Opposite of Me in 2010. I've enjoyed all her books since then, including the thrillers she wrote with Greer Hendricks. This time, Sarah wrote a thriller on her own and it's definitely a page turner!

I wasn't sure where the story was going at first, as it felt more like a domestic drama between a mother and daughter. Then the layers kept unfolding and it became more suspenseful and chilling. I don't want to say much as to not give any spoilers, but I really like how everything fell into place. I also liked the homage paid toward one of my favorite movies and the fact that it got a mention in relation to that. My favorite parts of the story were the flashback scenes, aside from one part that was completely unsettling (it was intended to be that way). It made me think of Heathers in some ways.

I had a couple concerns about Ruth's reactions to situations but I can't say much without giving something away. I just felt like she was being overly paranoid at times. I also felt like Catherine could have cut her some more slack. 

Overall, really well done. An engaging story that kept me on the edge of my seat!

Movie casting suggestions:
Ruth: Aubrey Plaza
Ruth (teen): Dylan Conrique
Catherine: Julia Goldani Telles
James (teen): Daniel DiMaggio

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy to give away! 

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends August 6th at midnight EST.

More by Sarah Pekkanen:

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Padmini Rao said...

My favorite novel of hers is The Wife between Us

traveler said...

The Perfect Neighbors.

Burma Turner said...

I loved The Perfect Neighbors.

Mary C said...

The Perfect Neighbors

Anita Yancey said...

My favorite is The Wife Between Us.

Susieqlaw said...

Susieqlaw: The Golden Couple

diannekc said...

Sarah is a new author to me. I would like to read "The Perfect Neighbors".

Emily Catan said...

I enjoyed An Anonymous Girl and The Wife Between Us very much. Would love to read Gone Tonight to see what is going to happen to the relationship between Catherine and Ruth!

Lisa D said...

I haven't read any books by Sarah Pekkanen but I'd love to read Gone Tonight.

Mary Preston said...

A new to me author. I'd start with GONE TONIGHT.

Linda Kish said...

I haven't read any of her books yet, but I have been meaning to. They do sound good.

Texas Book Lover said...

I haven’t read any of her books yet. The Golden Couple and Gone Tonight both sound great.
Thank you!

bn100 said...

Gone Tonight

Donna Shaw said...

This novel sounds like a winner to me.

Nancy P said...

This sounds like the perfect read to start!