Review: ‘The Retreat’ by Sherri Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Happy Publication Day Sherri Smith and her gripping thriller The Retreat. Thank you to Titan books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.7

SYNOPSIS:

Sherri Smith illuminates the dark side of the self-care and wellness industry in a thrilling ride of revenge perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers. The Retreat is a twisting, bone-chilling suspense that asks: how well do you really know your friends?

Four women.

Four secrets.

A weekend that will change them forever..if they survive.

Katie Manning was a beloved child star until her mid-teens when her manager attacked and permanently scarred her face, effectively ending her career and sending her on a path of all-too-familiar-post-Hollywood  self-destruction.

Now twenty-seven, Katie wants a better answer to those clickbait “Where Are They Now?” articles that float around online. An answer she hopes to find when her brother’s too-good-to-be-true fiancee invites her to a wellness retreat upstate. Together with Katie’s two best friends – one struggling with crippling debt and family obligations, one running away from a failed job and relationship – Katie will try to find the inner peace promised at the tranquil retreat. But finding oneself just might drudge up more memories than Katie is prepared to deal with.

Each woman has come to the retreat for very different reasons. Each has her secrets to hide. And at the end of this weekend, only one will be left standing. 

“This place made a killer out of me.”

The Retreat is a dark and twisted tale of secrets, lies, hate, revenge and murder. It starts with a chilling prologue that had me immediately hooked. 

Former child star Katie Manning has been wandering aimlessly through life ever since her T.V show ended over a decade ago. Her recent planned comeback has been scrapped afTer she drunkenly wrote a homophobic tweet, leaving her with no idea what to do next. Her brother Nate encourages her to go on a wellness retreat with  his fiancee Ellie to see if she can find focus in life and heal her demons. It’s the last thing she wants to do, particularly with someone she can’t stand, but she agrees for her brother and secretly invites her two best friends, Ariel and Carmen, along with them. We soon discover that each of them have things they’re hiding from the others and things that they’re running from. 

When they arrive at the retreat they’re greeted by the owners, Naomi and Dr. Dave. The couple look like strange cult members, insist everyone give up their phones and declare that everyone can become a new person in one weekend if they follow their instructions. Ellie seems excited, while the other girls are skeptical and disappointed; this isn’t the spa like sanctuary they thought they signed up for. As the weekend progresses it’s clear that none of them will leave the retreat the same person. If they leave at all…

I really enjoyed this novel. It was atmospheric and the opening chapter gave the book as sense of foreboding that made me excited for what was coming. 

The four girls each narrate the story offering a great insight into their experience and different perspectives on the retreat. I liked that each of them were multilayered and had depth. Katie and Ellie were the hardest to like but were fun to read. Katie was the perfect spoiled, out of touch Hollywood brat but I did feel for her being made to be the family breadwinner at such a young age and how she didn’t have parents who cared past the money she made. Her only parental figure was her manager who betrayed her and disfigured her in an attack that essentially ended her career at just 15. She’s a lost soul and I really wanted her to find meaning in life beyond money and her former career and feel able to just be herself instead of the former child star. My heart broke for her as she started to remember things she’d long repressed and I understood why she was so messed up. It was a great reminder of that money and fame are far from a guarantee of a good and happy life. With Ellie I had a radar go off about what her real motivations were in her relationship with Nate from early on. She seemed to be harbouring the biggest secrets and have secret motivations for everything she did. She was also very controlling but battled to contain it in order to keep up her perfect facade. 

The girl I probably liked most was Carmen. She was intelligent, level headed and caring, though I felt for what she was going through in having to be the provider and carer for her father and siblings. It’s clear she had a bright career ahead of her until life got in the way and the parallels with Katie as the family breadwinner, albeit in a completely different capacity and wage bracket, were interesting. Especially in how it affected their relationship. Lastly there was Ariel. I had a lot of sympathy for her lack of confidence and need to be loved, even if the choices she makes are questionable and she came off desperate a lot of the time. She seemed like a lovely girl underneath it all if only she could finally feel loved and accepted for who she is. 

At varying times I suspected three of the four might be the mysterious person in the prologue before settling on who I thought was the one. In the end the identity of the survivor involved many twists and was far more complex than I imagined and I was on tenterhooks as we reached the story’s shocking, macabre and gruesome climax and finally learned the answers to our questions and the identity of the final girl.

Out today.