Wow!!! What a roller coaster!!! This novel was extraordinary, and the characters were not the usual ones you find in this kind of plot. They all have secrets that are gradually uncovered, and this fact makes almost all the characters so unlikable.
Avril has Daisy, who she believes is her daughter Chloe. We know that she has been in two different mental hospitals, the last of which was where she felt better. She made friends with Lily, a woman who reminded her of James’s mother, who she had always had a bumpy relationship with. However, when she realises that Lily was someone else, she calmed down and enjoyed the woman’s friendship. Yet, when the hospital closed, she promised Lily she would be in contact, but she never did.
Convinced that James would be happy to hear from her, Avril calls him, saying that she would like to meet. James keeps calm as he agrees to see her. However, the following day Avril fails to appear, and the reason is that James talked to the journalist camping outside his house, and the following day the headlines mentioned James’s fears for his ex-wife’s condition. We know that Avril saw the newspaper, and that is why she decided not to turn up.
Avril, instead, takes Daisy to a harbour on the other side of the island. In the meantime a witness comes forward. It is a hairdresser who claims that she did Avril’s hair around the time the woman was supposed to have arrived. The hairdresser helps the police to make up a sketch, and the portrait is then placed everywhere. The police also learn where Avril is staying, and when they check the place, they realise that her things are still there, so they hope she will return at some point.
Things for the family are getting more and more tense. Emily is out of control and her anger escalates more and more. She is jealous of the relationship between her sister and James, and she feels isolated. When Chloe comes home with Max and James receives them with open arms, Emily is furious, especially as everybody is ready to put Max’s mistakes behind, and feeling alone in her reasoning, she storms up to her room. Then when James, Jess, and Chloe are left alone, Jess reasons that if Daisy would be hers, she would be out there, doing her best to find Daisy. So almost in synchronisation the three of them decide to leave and find what is going on.
When they reach the place, James gets a call from Emily. Apparently, a journalist had told her that the body of a baby had been washed up on the harbour. Emily is hysterical, and as soon as James rings off, he, Jess, and Chloe race to the place only to find out that it is a doll, not a baby. The shock gets to Chloe, who starts sobbing and saying that what has happened to Daisy is her fault. Then she explains that she and Max sneaked into the house that night for a couple of bottles when Jess was asleep on the sofa, and when they left, they forgot to lock the back door, through which Avril came to steal Daisy.
Next the police say that they have heard that Avril was on the ferry to the harbour, so it is a question of time for her to be caught. It is then that two important events take place.
The first one is when Avril is finally stopped. When she is on the ferry, she is surprised to find Lily, her friend, who claims that Avril called her the day before. Lily wasn’t there, but Avril left a message, telling her to meet her here, so she decided to come. Thanks to Lily, the police catch Avril and rescue Daisy. We learn later that what Avril first believed was true. Lily is James’s mother, and when Avril was sectioned, she decided to get a job in the mental hospital to keep an eye on her daughter-in-law, who she dearly loved. We also learn that after Avril’s problems James suffered a breakdown, which made him flee with Chloe, and since then Lily hadn’t heard anything from him. It is true that the previous day Avril had left a message on her phone, and Lily, who hadn’t heard anything about the abduction, decided to meet her. On her way to the island she read about Daisy’s abduction, so Lily decided to alert the authorities.
The second big revelation involves Jess and Emily. Jess goes to pick up Emily in the car when the police tell them that Daisy is on her way to her family. Jess and Emily don’t say a word, and then Jess stops the car, telling her sister that before they continue, they will talk about the past. We learn that when Jess was staying with Sammie after her mother’s death, Sammie told her what had happened during that party. What Jess suspected was right; Simon did rape her, and Sammie and Emily saw what had happened, but then Emily convinced Sammie not to tell anything, reasoning that Jess would be too humiliated.
Horrid Emily instead made her sister feel horrible, telling her that she had cheated on her with her boyfriend. Jess couldn’t remember anything, so she had no proof to contradict her sister. Who could believe that your sister, who is supposed to love you, could do something so horrendous? Then came the abortion, and in the car now Emily finally spills the beans. Their parents didn’t know anything about the abortion; the clinic didn’t call, and nobody told them anything. Her mother appeared so aloof in the last days because she had discovered that her husband was cheating on her. It had nothing to do with Jess, but Emily convinced her sister that she was the reason for their parents’ unhappiness and talked her into leaving. The reason why she wanted her gone was Simon; he wanted him back, which wouldn’t have been possible with Jess around, and she did, but Emily admits that it was only for a couple of months until he found someone else. I find Emily totally horrible. She doesn’t seem to have an ounce of love in her body. She only loves herself.
When Jess finally drives to the harbour, Emily is left behind as she joins James and Chloe. From her position she sees them as a unit and she the interloper. As the ferry comes to the shore, she is eager to see Daisy, and when she approaches them, Jess whispers in her ear that she knows it was Emily, who contacted Avril in the first place. And we learn that Emily found the letter that she thought James had from her lover and contacted the person who wrote to him, intending to meet her.
In the epilogue, told from Jess’s perspective, we learn what has happened to the characters since then. There are more secrets that are disclosed here as well. Emily is gone; she went to find some peace in the Welsh monastery where Jess had been herself. She has been away for seven months and there is no news of her return. We learn that in the end James learnt about Emily contacting Avril, and that was the last straw for him, and the little love he still had was killed. I find this a bit unfair. James should take responsibility for his part here. If he hadn’t lied to Emily all these years, she wouldn’t have felt the need to find out the truth in these terms, and things would have been different. I don’t like Emily, but I think she wasn’t treated well in this sense. Then we also learn that Jess had a part in this matter, as she made sure her sister found the letter in her shelves because she was sure what she would do. What I don’t understand is how Jess knew who the letter was from and what she would achieve by leaving the letter at her sister’s disposal.
The second secret that Jess was keeping is her betrayal. She and James had something going on. They slept together on the night they put up the Christmas tree while Emily was in bed, complaining from a headache. Now Jess is pregnant with James’s baby, which is something I didn’t expect.
The only positive thing is that James got reacquainted with his mother, who has moved to the island, and Chloe occasionally goes to see her mother in the hospital she has been admitted too.
I really loved the book. Such horrible, but compelling characters. It is strange that even though Emily is the obvious villain here, I still felt sorry for her in some ways. She is terrible, controlling everybody in such a horrid way, but this is a symptom that she is a very flawed character, and I think she needs more help than anybody else. Yet, how can you help a person who has hurt you so much?