Laura Lochner has never been lucky in love. She falls too hard and too fast, always choosing the wrong men. Devastated by the end of her last relationship, she fled her Wall Street job and New York City apartment for her sister’s home in the Connecticut suburb where they both grew up. Though still haunted by the tragedy that’s defined her entire life, Laura is determined to take one more chance on love with a man she’s met on an Internet dating site.
Rosie Ferro has spent most of her life worrying about her troubled sister. Fearless but fragile, Laura has always walked an emotional tightrope, and Rosie has always been there to catch her. Laura’s return, under mysterious circumstances, has cast a shadow over Rosie’s peaceful life with her husband and young son – a shadow that grows darker as Laura leaves the house for her blind date.
When Laura does not return home the following morning, Rosie fears the worst. She’s not responding to calls or texts, and she’s left no information about the man she planned to meet. As Rosie begins a desperate search to find her sister, she is not just worried about what this man might have done to Laura. She’s worried about what Laura may have done to him…
One of the best moments of reviewing books is watching an author grow over the expanse of her career. Wendy Walker is on her third book now, and it’s been crazy getting here. From DNF to a five-skull rating, it was easy to be nervous about this book. Fortunately, Walker has proven she’s on an upward trajectory.
The plotline seems rather simple at first: Laura Lochner has moved back to her hometown, one she has sworn to avoid, after the explosive end of a relationship she held dear. The novel begins with her wanting to begin dating again, and she begins to get ready for a first blind date. Just writing that seems childish and cliché, but this is Wendy Walker and things get dark and twisted fast. Laura has battle scars, ones from a dark past. Her sister Rosie barely trusts her, and their interactions are ripe with conflict. Joe, Rosie’s husband, has a familiarity with Laura that is hard to understand. Gabe has been there with the three of them since they were children, and the four of them always end up back together, sometimes with violent consequences.
The Night Before signals the first time Walker is comfortable in her skills as an author as well as her characters. As wonderful as Emma in the Night is, it’s calculating and revolves around the mental illness and resulting depravity of a single person. It’s a case study, just better done than All is Not Forgotten. The Night Before puts utter trust in its characters, letting them take the reader through the maze-like prose the author is so known for. Laura, Rosie, Gabe, and Joe all have darkness and secrets that create the plot around them, rather than the plot driving their actions. It makes for a rather unique thriller where sympathy and distrust abound at the same time.
It was rather hard to be objective about this book, even with its clear strengths in character development, dialogue, quality of writing, and plot. Like I said, Walker hit her stride with the novel (she even breaks up tension in the appropriate places like having Laura ask “Why can’t Adele just be happy for once?” and I was dying) but what really sold the book for me was Laura. Laura is my spirit animal. She is broken, like she says continuously, and she lets the perspective of others shape a lot of how she sees herself. This gets her into trouble, but even despite this, she’s fierce, fearless, and loyal to a fault. Her strength allows her to survive in this book, and the day after reading it, I found myself questioning everything people say about me.
A book rarely hits home for me personally anymore, and certainly not to the degree where it inspires me to look at my own life. Laura remains one of my absolute favorite characters, and this is a book I will read again. And again. The Night Before is a fantastic sign for Wendy Walker, and I now look towards her future will all enthusiasm. I thank NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.