Fiction Review: “The Good Girl” by Mary Kubica

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Local author Mary Kubica’s debut “The Good Girl” is set in Chicago. Mia, the twenty-five-year-old daughter of a wealthy North Shore judge is kidnapped; although, without a ransom note, there’s little to go on. The hard-hearted judge is sure his daughter has just run off, being irresponsible and inconsiderate. The mother is sure something’s happened to her, having a different impression of her daughter. Chapters are labeled either “Before” or “After” the abduction, where Mia, “after,” can’t or won’t disclose what happened to her during her captivity. The point-of-view shifts from Mia’s mother, the detective, and the kidnapper himself as Kubica slowly teases out the story. Because the kidnapper’s perspective is clear, there doesn’t seem to be a mystery—but Mia’s post-kidnapping condition doesn’t make sense. Instead of relief, she’s anxious, unsure of who she is, uncomfortable with her reunited family. She claims not to recall the details of her three-month captivity, which is questioned by her mother, rejected by her father, and attributed to a kind of Stockholm Syndrome by her therapist. Her level of shock seems to indicate that something much worse than the kidnapper reveals happened while they were hiding in the woods. “She’s thinking. She wakes up from a dream and tries to remember the details. She gets bits and pieces, but never the whole thing. We’ve all been there. In a dream, your house is a house but it’s not your house. Some lady doesn’t look like your mother, but you know that she is your mother. In the daytime, it doesn’t quite make as much sense as it did during the night.”

If a book about a kidnapped girl with a twist sounds familiar that’s surely no coincidence. This is one of many books hailed as this year’s “Gone Girl.” While publishers are clearly eager to capitalize on the success of Gillian Flynn, they often do a disservice to the book and the reader when setting up the expectation of a whopper plot twist like the one we all read in “Gone Girl.” Like A.S.A. Harrison’s starkly gorgeous “The Silent Wife,” also set in Chicago, also with a bit of a twist, and also hailed as last summer’s “Gone Girl,” the reader spends the second half of the book wondering when they’re going to encounter that face-slap of a moment when everything they thought they knew was a lie. If a clever little twist is revealed on the penultimate page, it’s almost disappointing. Sure, “The Good Girl” does share a kidnapping plot and six out of eight letters with the title of Flynn’s runaway hit, but the style and pacing are entirely different. Kubica’s book is a slow burner, in no rush to explain the course of events. So, despite what might be slathered all over the jacket, don’t read “The Good Girl”expecting this year’s “Gone Girl,” but do read this debut by a promising new author.  (Kelly Roark)

“The Good Girl”
By Mary Kubica
Harlequin MIRA, 352 pages, $24.95

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