‘And Then You Were Gone’ by R. J. Jacobs ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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How can you save someone else if you can’t save yourself?

After years of learning to manage her bipolar disorder, Emily Firestone finally has it under control.  Even better, her life is coming together: she’s got a great job, her own place, and a boyfriend, Paolo, who adores her. So when Paolo suggests a weekend sailing trip, Emily agrees – wine, water, and the man she loves. What could be better? But when Emily wakes the morning after they set sail, the boat is still adrift…and Paolo is gone.

A strong swimmer, there’s no way Paolo drowned, but Emily is at a loss for any other explanation. Where else could he have gone? And why? As the hours and days pass by, each moment marking Paolo’s disappearance, Emily’s hard-won stability begins to slip.

But when Emily uncovers evidence suggesting Paolo was murdered, the investigation throws her mania into overdrive, even as she becomes a person of interest in her own personal tragedy. To clear her name, Emily must find the truth – but can she hold on to her own sanity in the process?

Thank you to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books and R. J. Jacobs for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Emily Firestone finally has her life together. After years battling to find an even keel she has her bipolar disorder under control and is happy: she is working as a psychologist with children, her own apartment, and is madly in love with her boyfriend, Paolo.

When Paolo suggests a weekend sailing Emily ignores her fears of water and agrees to the trip. After a perfect first night she wakes to find him gone. She alerts the police but is certain that as a strong swimmer he couldn’t have drowned and that he didn’t just up and leave her. When the Police declare Emily the only suspect in his death she knows finding the truth is the only way to clear her name, a task that seems impossible as her life falls apart piece by piece.

But then one of Paolo’s coworkers contacts her saying she has evidence that Paolo was murdered by someone close to him. Increasingly desperate to clear her name, Emily tries to find further proof but finds her mania intruding her thoughts more and more as she races against the clock to not only uncover what really happened to Paolo but to also keep her grip on reality.

This book was a breathtaking roller-coaster ride. R. J. Jacobs has written a compulsive, thrilling and unpredictable debut novel that I couldn’t put down.

Emily was an unreliable protagonist but also one I loved. Seeing her battle against her paranoia was riveting. She herself couldn’t trust the truth and accuracy of her recollection of events or what she was thinking which added an extra layer of uncertainty to whether or not you could believe her version of events, while also making her a character that is interesting to read. The author’s background as a psychologist shines through in these intricate details of Emily’s character and her bipolar II. The expressive language used to describe her thoughts and feelings enabled me to understand her and put myself in her shoes even though I have never lived with her condition. I also found the tidbits of information about how and why the brain works the way it does really interesting and it helped me understand mental health in a new way.

And Then You Were Gone is a fabulous psychological thriller that keeps you guessing as you are never quite sure what to believe. Filled with with surprising twists, turns and revelations this is a book that has you on the edge of your seat until the end. R. J. Jacobs is a talented new voice in fiction and I’m excited to see what he writes next.

Out now.

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