In The Dark We Forget by SG Wong

A woman wakes up by the side of the highway with no memory of who she is or how she got there. As the pieces start to fall into place, she learns her parents just won big in the lottery and have since gone missing. She’s the only one who can help, but can she remember in time?

I was excited to read this after an event that Harper hosted over zoom. The author came on to talk about her book and I liked her a lot. She came across so well. I also love finding Canadian reads, so I was excited to read this. The book has a Chinese-Canadian perspective, which is really great to find as well.

I think the author set herself a bit of a difficult task with this book. She went with a common trope for domestic thrillers, with the main character being an unreliable narrator who can’t remember the events that led her to the predicament that she’s in. She feels threatened, but can’t remember why. This sets us up to want all the threads tied up neatly, and plenty of tension because of the situation being time sensitive. But the level of desperation and tension that there should be to fulfil this isn’t there. I think this might be down to marketing the book as a thriller and having that bold, puzzling opening. THe book is more of a character study, in my opinion, with mystery elements.

Secondly, the main character is pretty horrible. I felt unsure how to relate to her as I was reading sometimes, until I got the idea that she was meant to be unlikable. She’s a bully, often self centered, demanding and paranoid (seems to think everyone is out to get her). We learn later that she comes from a difficult situation, but since we don’t know that til later, it’s a story you have to stick with. It can be hard to read a book narrated by someone unlikable. I did feel some compassion for her at the start and the end of the book, and as she learns about herself and who she has been. She’s a complex, well written character, once you understand her whole story, but we don’t know what that is until the end of the book. I think that’s a hard thing to do well and get right as an author.

On the whole, the resolution to the mystery is soft, a little ambiguous and leaves threads unresolved, the middle is a little slow, and the police force seemed a little unrealistic (of course, the author may know something I don’t), and a pregnant character just leaves the story while her husband stays, which felt weird. But as a complex character study and a look at how a Chinese-Canadian protagonist might feel and think in these circumstances, it’s really very good. I wonder if the author is planning on following this up with a sequel or series?

Read It If: I think if I went into this book knowing that it wasn’t a thriller and all about the tension and the gimmick, and really a character study and mystery, I would have seen it slightly differently. Also, points to this book for the Chinese-Canadian voice and perspective.

Thank you to the author and Harper Canada for the ARC of this book for review.

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