All her life, Sara Gallagher has wondered about her birth parents. As an adopted child with two sisters who were born naturally to her parents, Sara did not have an ideal home life. The question of why she was given up for adoption has always haunted her. Finally, she is ready to take steps and to find closure.
But some questions are better left unanswered.
After months of research, Sara locates her birth mother—only to be met with horror and rejection. Then she discovers the devastating truth: Her mother was the only victim ever to escape a killer who has been hunting women every summer for decades. But Sara soon realizes the only thing worse than finding out about her father is him finding out about her.
What if murder is in your blood?
Never Knowing is a complex and compelling portrayal of one woman’s quest to understand herself, her origins, and her family. That is, if she can survive. .
Well it’s official: Chevy Stevens has done it again! Another top-rate psychological thriller that will make you think, give you gooseflesh and make it positively impossible to put the book down until you finish!
Stevens employs the structure of sharing the story through therapy sessions, just like she did in her debut, “Still Missing.” While the novelty wore off, I didn’t mind it, but wondered if this was how Stevens was going to write all of her books – therapy sessions for chapters and two timelines because of it. Then I found out that this book is linked to the first and one more (which comes after) and because there was a point, I was happy and didn’t think about it again. Unlike her first novel, this book’s two storylines (what is being told in the therapy sessions and the “now”) aren’t that far off from each other. Typically it’s a week’s difference, sometimes only a matter of days.
Not all of the characters in this book are likeable much of the time, but I felt that they were authentic. I have heard other people complain about this aspect, but in my personal opinion they weren’t looking at the characters in question as real people, but as roles they thought should be played a certain way. For example, Sara goes looking for her birth parents primarily because she feels like such an outcast with her own family. Her adoptive dad has always treated her differently and acts like he never wanted her. Turns out, he didn’t, but her mother was told she couldn’t have kids and desperately wanted one. And then she had two, which only made things worse for Sara. While she is close to one of her sisters, she is always at war with the other. I feel like a lot of people hope to read about people who are better than those that exist in the real world and these characters would all exist in the real world. They’re real.
This book does get off to a slower start, but once it hits its stride (around page 66, for some it might not be until about page 90) it’s off. I could put the book down before I got to this point, but once I did, I just wanted to read until I reached the end. The book is longer than “Still Missing,” and sometimes I questioned if it could be condensed a little. There is this back-and-forth cat and mouse thing going on for more than 200 pages, but I didn’t feel it dragged anywhere.
The book’s concept showed true promise, and once again I like the questions Stevens asks, and how she seeks out the answers. Sara has always had a temper, but while explosive tempers and emotions may run in the family (Sara’s daughter is a brat much of the time, we’re talking major tantrums including an incident where she kicked the family pet) that is not the same as being a murderer. And here is this notorious serial killer who has killed dozens of people, and yet Stevens is able to make him human. Sometimes, you find yourself forgetting that “John” (as he calls himself) is a monster, and you just see the man who is trying to reach out and get to know the daughter he never knew he had.
John as a character made me think. He wasn’t as scary as I felt he should be. I mean here is a guy who has raped and murdered countless women, as well as disposed of anyone who was in the way (boyfriends, parents, etc.). He has been killing for nearly four decades. But while his temper as well as what he says to Sara, and what he sends her, is terrifying, he is much more man than monster. He is so eager to get to know his daughter that he does things he knows are risky. But he is willing to take those risks.
There is no doubt that John is the “Campsite Killer” as well as Sara’s father, even the book jacket makes this very clear – but there are still plenty of surprises and revelations along the way from why John kills and how it all started to horrific acts of violence after he has made contact. This is a thriller after all, not everything can be as it seems. While by the end of the book, I wish I had a little more from John, as does Sara, Stevens once again wraps every loose end up nicely, without coming across as contrived.
Ultimately, “knowing” comes at a price, and sometimes the price of knowing is too high, and not worth the actual knowledge. But I’m glad I came to know this book – it did not disappoint! 🙂
If you like thrillers then I highly recommend this book. And if you read, “Still Missing” (and if you haven’t, you really should!) then I insist you read this book. Just make sure to leave any preconceived notions or expectations behind, because I think this is another thing that tripped people up. The story of finding out your father is a serial killer can be written so many ways, and so many things can be explored, but no book can do it all, there are too many paths in too many directions that you could take this idea. Stevens chose the path for this book, and she follows it to the end (very well, might I add), even if it’s a different path than the one you would have chosen.