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The Girl from Widow Hills


The Girl from Widow Hills

She was once the girl the entire nation knew and rooted for. Six-year-old Arden Maynor, who suffered from severe bouts of sleepwalking, walked directly out of her house at the onset of a terrifying rainstorm and just disappeared. Even though she was eventually found in a storm drain underneath the town, she never would escape the nickname she earned from this experience: “the girl from Widow Hills.”

In a novel filled with storytelling and deciphering the truth from lies, not to mention family ties and the power of memory, author Megan Miranda does a stellar job keeping us guessing and rethinking what we thought we knew.

Following a brief prologue, the story begins in the year 2020, two decades after the aforementioned incident. Arden, who legally changed her name to Olivia Meyer, graduated college and never returned to her small Kentucky town. She is now working as a hospital administrator in Central Valley, Ohio. However, sleepwalking is still a part of her life. She is awakened by the voice of her 70-year-old neighbor, Rick Aimes, outside her home late at night. She realizes that she must get serious help for this condition --- not only for her safety, but also to help protect the identity she never wanted to reveal again. She had personally selected Central Valley because it was so far from anything, a “bathroom break between the outer edge of a larger town and the mountain lodges.”

"THE GIRL FROM WIDOW HILLS is an above-average psychological thriller/mystery that keeps the suspense at a high intensity, and each passing chapter seems to create more questions than it answers."

Many books in this genre have gimmicks these days, like various parts of the story being told from the point of view of different narrators. However, Miranda teases the end of each chapter with a mix of old articles, 911 transcripts, and interviews from both 2000 and the present day. Not only does this help drive the narrative along, it also reminds readers that the past is not going away and the facade Olivia has created for herself can crumble at almost any time.

Meanwhile, Olivia is enjoying life as a typical 26-year-old. She goes to happy hour with her work friends, Elyse and Bennett, and has even started seeing an in-house doctor about her sleepwalking. All of this is shattered when one evening, Olivia literally stumbles over a dead body on the edge of her property while sleepwalking. After the authorities have been called in, she learns the identity of the corpse: Sean Coleman, the man who rescued her from the storm drain in Widow Hills.

Olivia's hands are red with blood from the body, and she washes it off before anyone arrives. Rick is the only other person who knows about this, and he shows her what may have been the murder weapon: a box cutter with blood on it. Olivia creatively disposes of it in a sharps container at the hospital. The questions now ring through her mind: Why did Sean seek her out after 20 years, and what could he have wanted? It isn't until days after his body is found and his son, Nathan, comes to claim it that Olivia finds a note from Sean in her mailbox. He needed to speak to her about something.

At this point, things begin to unravel for Olivia. Detective Nina Rigby advises her not to speak to Rick anymore as he is considered a person of interest in the case and was a suspect in the alleged suicide of his wife years earlier from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. To make matters worse, Elyse vanishes, and there is talk that she may have been responsible for the medication that went missing from the hospital. A few days later, her body is found, the victim of an overdose. 

Olivia knows that a killer is out there. This makes her think back to the years following her disappearance when her family had to deal with some lunatic sending them threatening letters demanding that they tell the truth. She does not believe in coincidence and is desperate to find out what’s going on. It’s just a matter of time before her real name is splashed all over the media. She takes solace in getting together with Nathan as he is the only connection she has to Widow Hills. When a meeting at his hotel only adds to her fears, she realizes that to get definitive answers, she must return to Widow Hills and talk to her mother. This confrontation ties up all the loose ends in Olivia's mind, but will have readers spinning in their chair. 

THE GIRL FROM WIDOW HILLS is an above-average psychological thriller/mystery that keeps the suspense at a high intensity, and each passing chapter seems to create more questions than it answers. The writing is crisp and should make for a much-talked-about summer read.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on June 24, 2020

The Girl from Widow Hills
by Megan Miranda