Book review: Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 Permalink

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf is an interesting read. It’s a psychological thriller that offers some interesting insights into the impact long-kept secrets have on our relationships and those we love. It also challenges readers to consider how well we think we know those around us.

Book review: Missing Pieces by Heather GudenkaufMissing Pieces
by Heather Gudenkauf
Published by Harlequin MIRA, Harlequin
on February 2nd 2016
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 9781760374297
Pages: 288

Sarah Quinlan's husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery.

The case rocked the small farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalized in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded.

Upon arriving in Penny Gate, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago—barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia's accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems.

Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack's past. But the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth she may not be prepared for.

I’m not married and haven’t really had any long term relationships so struggle to imagine how a husband or wife could keep their past from their partner for many many years.

Every time I read a book about a spouse (or parent) who never shared information about their family of origin or early life I’m agog. I’m shocked when I learn something new about my parents… sure I’ve heard most of their stories over the years. I can’t imagine sitting back and letting someone get away with not divulging detail about their life.

But I am an inquisitive type, so maybe it happens.

Indeed, in Missing Pieces, Sarah has believed her husband Jack when he’s said his parents died in an accident and she’s asked no questions about his upbringing or early years. He’s barely been back to his hometown since their marriage and Sarah (and their college-aged daughters) have accepted that fact.

So… when she does finally get to go to Jack’s hometown and meet his family and friends she’s gobsmacked that the story he’s told her about his parents is not true and that their departure from his life was far more macabre than she could have imagined. On top of that they’ve returned ‘home’ at a time when past secrets are coming back to bite their keepers.

I have to admit being a bit shocked at how quickly Sarah started doubting Jack given she’d been married to the man for 20 years. She is surprisingly unforgiving about his need to run from his past… but, like I said, I’ve never been married so…

The pacing of the novel’s a bit mixed, which was okay. It’s a little plodding in parts—when everything seems to have settled down and things are back to normal—and then new secrets are uncovered and Sarah’s racing against time to understand what happened decades earlier and what’s happening now as a result.

The whole spousal distrust thing could be an interesting talking point for book clubs. Was Sarah justified in her anger and doubt? Should she have offered her husband of 20 years the benefit of the doubt? Should he have come clean earlier? Is it ever too late to fess up to your past?

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf was published in Australia by Harlequin MIRA.

I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 

  • Tea Time with Marce
    February 2, 2016

    I just finished this one last night. It is my least favourite of Heather G’s actually. The 20 years of marriage secret is almost unforgivable, especially when you would go back for something like a funeral. That was asking for trouble. Sarah became the little detective so quickly, which was a little odd with thoughts against her husband.

    I am in a 15 plus relationship and been married before, I understand ‘white lie secrets’, these secrets are divorce worthy. Not just the husbands lies but the family dynamics……. whoah.

    Great review.

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2016

      Thanks Marce. I’d kinda guessed ‘whodunnit’ but it was the relationship dynamics that interested me the most. How quickly trust turned into distrust etc…

  • Nise' (Under the Boardwalk)
    February 2, 2016

    I thought the same thing about Sarah’s doubts about her husband. I enjoyed the book, but didn’t think it was her best.

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2016

      I hadn’t heard of Gudenkauf before so must check out some of her other work!

  • Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library
    February 2, 2016

    I’m curious about this one and this is an author I’ve been wanting to read. I can kind of see how you could have some secrets from your spouse. Especially about a death of a parent just because that could be a subject he doesn’t talk much about but it is still a bit odd. It sounds like a great book club book!

    • Debbish
      February 3, 2016

      I think it most definitely would be Katherine!

  • Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf
    February 8, 2016

    This was my 1st book by this author and though I enjoyed it I really did have a hard time with it. How could he keep so many secrets…how could she doubt him so quickly…oy!

    • Debbish
      February 8, 2016

      I was exactly the same Melissa – that was why I thought it might be good for bookclubs – to talk about those elements as I wondered if it was just ‘me’.

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