What’s it about?
All she wanted was the truth, but she’ll wish she never found out.
When Catherine wakes up alone one morning, she thinks her husband has gone for a run before work. But Simon never makes it to the office. His running shoes are by the front door. Nothing is missing—except him.
Catherine knows Simon must be in trouble. He wouldn’t just leave her. He wouldn’t leave the children.
But Simon knows the truth—about why he left and what he’s done. He knows things about his marriage that it would kill Catherine to find out. The memories she holds onto are lies.
While Catherine faces a dark new reality at home, Simon’s halfway around the world, alive and thriving. He’s doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the truth.
But he can’t hide forever, and when he reappears twenty-five years later, Catherine will finally learn who he is.
And wish she’d stayed in the dark.
After reading both of his novels I can say that I’m officially addicted! He’s got what it takes to completely transport me to another country and another lifetime and he really let the characters come alive so much in this novel that they crept under my skin. When You Disappeared is a deeply character-driven family drama and I was really invested in the characters (or one of them at least). This is a novel that’s all about the journey and isn’t fast-paced in that way but more of a slow unfolding and discovery of the characters throughout the story. Don’t expect it to focus on an investigation after Simon went missing and you’ll be absolutely fine.
The novel starts with Simon’s return after 25 years and then turning back to his decision to disappear and leave his childhood sweetheart Catherine and his 3 children so many years ago. He actually planned to take his own life but in the end he decided that would be too easy, better to let his wife suffer and wonder what happened to him so he just vanished… until now. The reason why he left is surrounded by mystery but it must be something terrible is all I could assume. It is much worse than I thought though… that ending, knowing, finally understanding it, realizing… it’s harrowing!
When he knocks on her door after such a long time and after she’s overcome the shock of seeing him again, Catherine demands why he left and what she did to him that make him take this action. He’s there to tell her why he’s resented her all this time but first she has to hear what she made him do while he was away. He tells her he set fire, he stole and killed and it was all due to her. She quashed his dreams and ideas and all he knew was that true happiness was non-existent. When you think you’ll have it, something dark and rotten will turn it around and take it away. He’d seen it often enough, with his mother, with the ‘perfect’ family of his friend Douglas, and then what his wife did. It sounds bitter and there is definitely a heaviness I felt when I was reading this book but thankfully positive notes became more and more prominent the further I advanced into the novel.
There’s nothing that gives an idea as to what happened but the alternating storylines of their pasts gave me a pretty good idea of who these people were, their true selves come forward through their actions and how they coped with their struggles. I learned how he led a decadent life without worries while she tried to pick herself up, got 3 jobs to provide for her children. Even though Catherine did something so awful that Simon gave up everything and I should probably have sympathized with him for making such a grave decision, I didn’t, not one moment really. He pushed his family out of his mind just too easily, he did atrocious things and I found myself not feeling sorry for him and not sympathising anymore. I was wondering if the author was going to make me feel guilty and swing my sympathies by the end of the novel but I can’t say. I can only confirm that I felt deeply for one of them in the end.
It took until the end of the novel to be enlightened why he finally came back and is even so many years after the facts still trying to instill guilt. Their interactions in the present were like a dance, seeing what their truths did to the other when hearing them so honestly declared. It was fascinating to see how they spent their lives and slowly they are coming to the crux of the story with a twist, a turn of events that I never imagined and was so tragic.
I’m not sure this novel is for everyone, it’ll have some divided opinions probably because of this unlikeable character and the lack of exciting things happening, but I was really drawn into it. When You Disappeared was a rich story that had me completely immersed.
I received a free copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.