Book Review: How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst

cover for how i lost you
© 2017, Atria / Emily Bestler Books.


“A woman without a memory struggles to discover the truth about her past and her identity in this cerebral and dark thriller reminiscent of works by bestselling authors S.J. Watson and Ruth Ware.

I have no memory of what happened but I was told I killed my son. And you believe what your loved ones, your doctor and the police tell you, don’t you? My name is Emma Cartwright. Three years ago I was Susan Webster, and I murdered my twelve-week-old son Dylan. I was sent to Oakdale Psychiatric Institute for my crime, and four weeks ago I was released early on parole with a new identity, address, and a chance to rebuild my tattered life. This morning, I received an envelope addressed to Susan Webster. Inside it was a photograph of a toddler called Dylan. Now I am questioning everything I believe because if I have no memory of the event, how can I truly believe he’s dead? If there was the smallest chance your son was alive, what would you do to get him back?” (Source: Goodreads)


How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst is difficult for me to score with ease, to be completely and totally honest. There are several things I loved about this book and others that felt more like a cliche. Aside from those few moments, I enjoyed reading this novel.

Susan Webster, a.k.a. Emma Cartwright, finds her head still spinning after serving her time in a psychiatric prison for the murder of her son. As a character, she is for the most part fairly well-written. Having suffered a psychotic break, she becomes an unreliable narrator and Blackhurst does an excellent job at describing the sort of incredulity that individuals suffering mental illness find themselves often faced with. Reading Susan’s point of view felt very much like my own after a break I had about two years ago, and for that reason I found her to be relatable – all the way down to the seemingly instant attraction to an otherwise unknown man.

In some reviews, Susan’s interest in Nick has been viewed critically. I, on the other hand, have been that desperate for someone, anyone, to possibly listen to me or give me time of day so I feel Blackhurst’s portrayal of Susan in such a circumstance is certainly realistic. Diminished capacity for judgment is a side effect of mental illness, one that often gets dismissed as a cry for attention.

The story unfolds fairly quickly and in ways that are, at some moments, unsettling. Many of these moments take place in the past, where flashbacks take us to the glorious lives of the Durham Elite. It is in these flashbacks that I encountered the one cliche that absolutely annoyed the piss out of me: a cult like gathering that seemed to come out of nowhere. Seriously, cults are beyond overdone.

I really found myself dancing between three and four for this piece, largely because of the typical use of the “cult” as a scapegoat. For the most part, this is the only bit that appeared to stand completely out of place, so I’ve decided to lean toward four. Thus far, I find Emily Bestler’s selections to be wonderfully appropriate to my tastes and I look forward to seeing more of her publications as an imprint of Atria and Simon & Schuster.

I would like to thank the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book for the purpose of review. This review is written without bias and reflects my honest opinion.

Rating: 💀💀💀💀

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