Whistle in the Dark is Emma Healey’s second book. It focuses mainly on Jen, whose 15 year old daughter, Lana, goes missing in the Peak District for four days. As Lana has longstanding mental health concerns including depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts, Jen assumes that the worst has happened. When Lana returns unharmed, but unwilling to discuss what happened whilst she was missing, Jen struggles to cope with her daughter’s unwillingness to talk. The book covers the months following Lana’s disappearance, and the way it affects the family and their individual beliefs and realities.
After reading Healey’s debut novel Elizabeth is Missing in 2015, I was excited to have the chance to read Whistle in the Dark before the publication date. The synopsis was intriguing and I was keen to know what had happened to Lana, and why she refused to talk about it. Unfortunately, after the first few chapters I began to lose interest and got frustrated at the lack of clues as to what had happened to Lana. I found the relationship between Lana and Jen difficult to connect with, and was irritated by the way Lana treated her mother. More infuriating was that Jen put up with Lana’s behaviour.
Despite this, I found Healey’s portrayal of teenage children and their parents to be an interesting one. I felt she had a good grasp of Lana as a sullen teenager, and although irritating, Healey clearly showed Jen’s desperation to become closer to her distant daughter. It made me fearful of the secrets that can separate children from their parents, leaving parents worried about what they might not know.
There was a lovely passage in the novel where Jen reads a self-help book that has been annotated (probably) by a mother who read it before her. Within these scribbles, Jen recognises her own fears, and imagines a woman who has already walked the path that she now finds herself on. This was a clear demonstration of the power that books have to give us hope and strength, or to finally feel understood.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for allowing me to read Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey. The publication date is 3rd May 2018.