What You Never Knew by Jessica Hamilton starts with something quite devastating. Thankfully we’re prepared because the backcover blurb clearly tells us we’re going to be meeting someone who dies, nevertheless I felt sad we lost May before getting to know her.
Sometimes books featuring narrators who have died can be a little morbid or overly wistful, Hamilton however manages to insert (the ghost or spirit of) May into her sister’s life in quite an unobtrusive way.
What You Never Knew
by Jessica Hamilton
Published by Crooked Lane Books
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Idyllic Avril lsland, owned by the Bennett family, where their hundred-year-old cottage sat nestled in acres of forest. Forty-year-old June Bennett believed that the island had been sold after the summer of her father's disappearance when she was only twelve years old. It's months after the shocking death of her older sister May in a fatal car accident, that June finds out that the cottage was never sold. Avril Island is still owned by the Bennett family and now it's hers.
Still reeling from the grief of losing her sister, June travels back to Avril lsland in search of answers. As she digs, she learns that the townspeople believe her father may have, in fact, been murdered rather than abandoning his family in the dead of night, as she was led to believe by her mother.
And that's when she begins to notice strange things happening on the island--missing family possessions showing up on her bed, doors open when she had locked them closed. It takes June no time at all to realize that her childhood summers at Avril Island were not at all what they had seemed to be.
May tells us, when we briefly meet her, that Avril Island holds secrets and they’ve been kept from June who has no idea what she’s about to discover when she travels there. I liked that Hamilton takes away the memories of the spirit-of-May because, she’s learning things as we (and June) do. At times she’s on the precipice of remembering however and Hamilton manages our (and her) expectations well.
We don’t actually spend much time with May as she only drifts in and out of June’s life over the course of the book. Her role is not pivotal, rather there’s a sense she’s watching over her younger sibling. I very much liked the relationship between the sisters. I don’t have one so don’t necessarily understand the frustration coupled with unconditional love, the lack of rivalry, and the fact that they’re each other’s biggest champion.
I appreciated that Hamilton gives June some flaws and makes her fairly pragmatic about life.
There’s a smidge of romance here when June reconnects with a boy she knew decades earlier but also a sense of menace as there’s tragedy in his past linked with her own.
This was ultimately a tad predictable though really only because there’s a threat in the present and we don’t meet many characters (to be offered up as red herrings). We’re given a satisfying ending; a little muted but in a pleasantly understated way.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.