The Lily Cafe is thrilled for the opportunity to participate in the book blog tour for Where I Left Her by Amber Garza! I was a big fan of her debut, When I Was You, so am thrilled to be reviewing Where I Left Her. Thank you to Justine Sha at MIRA for both the opportunity and a review e-copy.
Title: Where I Left Her
Author: Amber Garza
Publication date: August 24, 2021
From the author of WHEN I WAS YOU comes a spine-tingling new thriller about a mother’s worst nightmare come true, when she goes to pick up her daughter from a sleepover, and she’s nowhere to be found.
Whitney had some misgivings when she dropped her increasingly moody teenage daughter off for a sleepover last night. She’s never met the friend’s parents, and usually she’d go in, but Amelia clearly wasn’t going to let something so humiliating happen, so instead she waved to her daughter before pulling away from the cute little house with the rosebushes in front.
But when she goes back to get her, an elderly couple answers the door–Amelia and her friend are nowhere to be found, and this couple swears she’s at the wrong house. As Whitney searches for Amelia, she uncovers a trail of secrets and lies her daughter has told her–from Finsta accounts to rumors of a secret relationship. Does she really even know this girl she’s raised, and can she find her before it’s too late?
I loved Garza’s debut, When I Was You, so have been eagerly anticipating her next book since. I’m so thrilled to have the opportunity to review Where I Left Her, especially since, as a mother, I love that it involves a mother-daughter relationship. Both of Garza’s novels involve motherhood, focusing on the mother, which is really fascinating to me even though my children are nowhere near the ages of the children Garza’s stories involve.
Where I Left Her is a fast, thrilling story about the tenuous relationship between a mother and her teen daughter as secrets begin to unravel. I loved everything about the mother-daughter relationship and really felt for both of them. There are three different timelines woven in, but it’s never confusing and only helps to heighten the tension. As with every thriller, false information is sown in, and it certainly had my mind reeling with what could really be happening. I did feel it was somewhat predictable, but that only really came as certain information was revealed at just the right time. The ending wrapped up perfectly, but also makes me want a sequel.
When Whitney drops off her sixteen-year-old daughter Amelia at her new friend Lauren’s house for a sleepover, she’s only thinking of a quiet night in away from her moody teen. As a busy single mother, she loves Amelia, but the teen years have turned difficult. When she returns the next morning to pick up Amelia, a confused elderly couple are the only ones there to greet her, and they swear neither Amelia nor Lauren had ever been there.
As Whitney begins to unravel the past couple of months, since Amelia met Lauren, three different timelines begin to unwind. One: Whitney is determined to find her daughter and combs through Amelia’s room and online accounts only to discover suspicious items and alarming alterations. Two: during the two months prior to Amelia’s disappearance Whitney tries desperately to hold fast to Amelia despite the teen pulling away and keeping secrets. Three: a story told in first person about an intense friendship fraught with lies and possible obsession.
Whitney has no idea where her daughter is, or who Lauren is since no one else seems to have even heard of her. But, as secrets are revealed, it might have more to do with Whitney.
Where I Left Her is a fast-paced thriller that never lets the reader go. There’s no real lag in the story, no real slow parts. The three timelines switch off perfectly, keeping the reader guessing right until the very last lines. I loved the eerie feeling creeping up the back of my neck that something was askew and loved that I never really knew exactly what was going on until the last page. Where I Left Her is Garza’s second novel, and I do believe I’m hooked on her thrillers!
Where I Left Her explores intense friendships and the mother-daughter relationship. As a mother, I’m drawn to stories about mothers, stories that explore those familial relationships. Garza did not disappointment with this novel. It strongly focused on the relationship between Whitney and Amelia, exploring the relationship when a mom’s beloved baby turns into a teenager at full-force.
I felt Whitney so much, her overprotective nature and the need to be involved in her daughter’s life. For years since Whitney and her husband’s divorce, it was really just Whitney and Amelia. I loved the sweet moments when Whitney was the perfect caring mother, when she so lovingly took care of her young daughter’s fragile emotional states. As a mom, it hurt to see it naturally become strained as Amelia pushed for independence and bristled under Whitney’s overbearing nature. Though there were times when even I wanted to tell Whitney to lighten up a little. But Amelia wasn’t a doll, either. Even as a child, she was demanding and manipulative. She clearly had her mother in the palm of her hand. Based on their characterizations and their relationship, it was easy to see how the whole story spiraled the way it did.
There were so many threads, so many stories, so many secrets, but it wasn’t hard to keep it all straight. There were some irrelevant bits of information thrown in to help add to the tension and throw the reader off, but the story and the writing did a fantastic job of throwing the reader off and then pulling them back in. I loved that it never felt contrived, and that there were times I felt like I was losing my mind alongside Whitney.
If there was one thing I wasn’t a fan of, it was the ending. There’s a sudden POV shift that was a little jarring, and suddenly another story was muddled in. It all made sense and it was nice to get that particular perspective, but I wish it had been woven in better. I did like how the last few pages wrapped up the story, though. I had a feeling it was heading that way, but never really felt the story was that predictable. There were some things I had an inkling of, other things I had figured out, but I really enjoyed the dispelling or confirmation of my suspicions.
Where I Left Her was a fun thriller that had my head spinning a little and had me questioning everything I was reading. I loved not really knowing who was telling the story in first person and loved that the back and forth in time never felt confusing. The multiple timelines were handled extremely well and helped craft a tightly woven story.
Where I Left Her was fast-paced and kept me on my toes. I loved every minute of it and of letting my mind wander in circles, trying to figure out who and what to believe and how it all worked together. Overall, a fun, thrilling read with a mother and daughter at its heart.
How many cups of tea will you need?
About Amber Garza
Amber Garza has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they’re real people. She lives with her husband and two kids in Folsom, California.
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Thank you to Justine Sha for a review copy and the opportunity to take part in the book blog tour for Where I Left Her. All opinions expressed are my own.