• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

McLain had me hooked on the vivid Northern California setting, imperfect Anna's rich and rocky history--and her messy road toward a version of personal redemption.

Anna is a San Francisco missing persons detective in denial about the fact that her job has overtaken her personal life for years. When she experiences a personal tragedy, she flees to the Northern California of her childhood--a place she's avoided since her teens.


She arrives hoping for anonymity and an escape to the woods to grieve and be alone, but she quickly finds out that a young local woman has gone missing. Old friends resurface, pulling Anna out of herself, and when other young girls go missing, the pull of finding the girls is irresistible to her.


Minor nitpicks: I wasn't sure Anna would provide parenting advice and hindsight-based tips to Emily at such a fraught time, and I felt like Anna would have been periodically more crushed and paralyzed by her own recent trauma.


I love the trope of a reluctant, imperfect hero, and Anna is both. McLain had me completely hooked on the vivid setting, Anna's rich and rocky history, her search for answers--and a messy road toward a version of personal redemption.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

McLain is also the author of Circling the Sun (a captivating account of the real-life Beryl Markham's adventures as an aviator in 1920s Kenya) and The Paris Wife (which somehow I still haven't read).


I received a prepublication edition of this book (published today) courtesy of Random House and NetGalley.