• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

Miranda uses the framework of a famous fictional rescue story to imagine the characters' turmoil and desperate coping mechanisms, crafting a fascinating look at the depths beneath their surfaces.

When they say: The girl from Widow Hills, remember? What they were reaching back for weren’t your memories—they were their own.


That girl is frozen in time, with her beginning, middle, and end: victim, endurance, triumph.


It was a good story. A good feeling. A good ending. Fade to black. As if, when the daily news moved on, and the articles ended, and the conversations turned, it was all over. As if it weren’t just beginning.


Arden Maynor was a small child when she sleepwalked into a storm and was washed away. Three days later, she was recovered in a miraculous series of events that ended up with her rescue and removal from a storm drain.


"The girl from Widow Hills" was instantly famous and would be forever. Anniversaries of the event, her mother's book about the experience, and a community that wouldn't allow her to forget--all of these drove Arden to move and then move again, eventually changing her name to Olivia, leaving behind her mother--who was slowly destroyed by the fame and relentless attention--and led Olivia to speak of the experience to no one in an attempt to become someone without the yoke of that sensational story.


Now Olivia is sleepwalking again, and she can't be entirely sure what she does in the night. Someone from her past has resurfaced, and he could reveal her carefully hidden secrets and ruin everything. When evidence of brutal violence emerges close to home, Olivia wonders if someone is protecting her or possibly seeking some kind of revenge--and if that someone might even be Olivia herself.


I found the ending of the book gloriously terrifying. The last few pages felt a little disjointed from the story and odd. But the familiar echoes of a story like "baby Jessica in the well," the media frenzy, and the public's emotional investment were a intriguing framework for Miranda's story. She takes a famous fictional rescue story and imagines the characters' turmoil and desperately cobbled-together coping mechanisms, crafting a fascinating look at the depths beneath.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

My book club heard Miranda talk about this book at a virtual library foundation event in the fall, and she hooked us on the story. She's also the author of All the Missing Girls, which I thought was interesting in its structure (it begins in the present day after a series of disturbing events and works backward in time chapter by chapter), as well as The Perfect Stranger and The Last House Guest.


I mentioned this book (along with The Fate of the Tearling and I Was Told It Would Get Easier) in the Greedy Reading List Three Books I'm Reading Now, 2/17/21 Edition.