Feb 22 2017
Its become rare these days to read a simple, straightforward story where the narration is not complicated by unreliable narrators, multiple points of view and the story itself moving back and forth in time. Fiona Barton too relies on many of these techniques in her debut novel The Widow. The story keeps us hooked with good suspense but the straightforward story feels more like a drama or an investigative tale rather than a twisty thriller like Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, 2 books its been compared to.
The story revolves around a little girl Bella who went missing while she was playing in the yard. Parts of the book deal with the time right after the incident as an inspector Bob Sparkes becomes obsessed with finding the girl. As with any story dealing with kids, there are some unsavory characters and scary information about their behavior but these are the best parts of the book. Bob’s investigation is thorough and his cycles of hope(when he gets a new lead) and disappointment(when the lead doesn’t pan out) are described well. We also meet Dawn, Bella’s mom, who clings to the hope that her daughter is alive and waits for her to return.
The story actually starts a few years later with the titular character Jean Taylor, whose husband Glen Taylor has just died in an accident. She is being interviewed by a reporter Kate Waters and we soon learn, through the sections flashback sections, that it was her husband who was the prime suspect in the kidnapping. Jean’s segments give us the picture of a naive wife whose life is controlled subtly but completely by a manipulative husband. We share her doubts about her husband’s nature and its these doubts about his innocence that give the story its suspense.
The multiple narrators help tell the complete story in bits and pieces and the story moves forward quickly as the two timelines eventually merge. But barring the suspense about the husband’s guilt about there are no real twists or surprises in the story.