by Mary Kubica
Reviewed by Ealish Waddell
Early in “The Good Girl” (new in paperback) we meet Mia, who’s recently returned home after being kidnapped and held for months in a remote cabin in the frigid Minnesota wilderness. So the reader knows right off the bat that she will be found and rescued safely. The real mystery of this suspenseful thriller is in figuring out what exactly happened in that cabin, and why Mia can’t seem to remember any of it.
Constructed with a time-jumping plot that glimpses various points before, after and during the abduction, the story is told largely in the alternating voices of three characters: Eve, Mia’s mother, who loves her daughter deeply and fiercely but has never been able to understand her. Gabe, the detective assigned to the investigation, increasingly driven to close the case for Eve’s sake as well as his own. And Colin, Mia’s abductor, a man long hardened to brutal reality but suddenly learning just what his limits are.
True to this narrative design, Mia herself is a bit of a cipher. She’s viewed mostly through the eyes of the three fallible narrators, each of whom also is trying to figure her out themselves. When, late in the story, Mia finally gets her own say, the impact is devastating: Unexpected secrets are revealed and relationships altered forever.
There actually are several stories intertwining here, and the themes of guilt, disappointment and resentment thread their way through them all. In one, each member of a fractured family is doomed in a different way by a lifelong lack of communication and care. In another, desperation leads to an escalating series of epically bad decisions. But in them all, despite everything, people keep instinctively grasping for connection and understanding — and sometimes find it in the most unlikely of places.