Then She Was Gone is a mystery novel by Lisa Jewell that follows Laurel Mack as she searches for answers about her daughter Ellie’s disappearance. The book is intense, nerve-wracking, and addicting. Readers will be pulled in quickly and won’t be able to put it down until the very end.
The novel is a slow-burning mystery and family drama that follows the effects that the disappearance of fifteen year old Ellie Mack has on her family. It explores the different ways that each family member deals with the tragedy, from pain and grief to strength and resilience. There is also a theme of deception and honesty running throughout the story as different members of the family grapple with their own secrets.
Summary Read Time: Less than 5 minutes
Actual Book Length: 359
First Published in: 2018
Below is the detailed yet quick summary of the book:
Laurel Mack’s life took a turn for the worse when her daughter Ellie disappeared 10 years ago. Since then, her marriage to Paul ended. She doesn’t have a good relationship with either of her two other children, Jake and Hanna. She also struggles to find a reason to keep going. When the police find Ellie’s remains, Laurel says goodbye at the funeral, but instead of finding closure, she only finds more questions.
When Laurel meets Floyd Dunn and for the first time since Ellie’s disappearance, she feels happy and hopeful again. However, when Laurel meets Floyd’s nine-year-old daughter Poppy, she’s struck by how similar Poppy is to Ellie. As Laurel gets to know Floyd better, she starts to heal the wounds of the past.
As Laurel heals and grows, she uncovers numerous coincidences that lead her to believe there is more to the story than what she was first told. For example, Floyd’s other daughter from a previous marriage, SJ, tells Laurel she saw Noelle naked at eight months pregnant without any baby bump. Laurel eventually follows the clues to Noelle’s house where she sees the strange basement. It’s a “guest room” full of hamster cages and secured with three locks on the basement door. While investigating Noelle and her connection to Ellie, Laurel also begins to notice peculiarities about Floyd and Poppy.
Poppy’s self-assurance is strange and off-putting to Laurel at first, who suspects that Floyd coached her on how to act. She later catches Floyd lying about Noelle, which leaves her feeling torn between her love for him and her suspicion. As she tries to solve the mystery, Laurel struggles to reconcile her feelings.
Noelle’s obsession with Floyd began years ago and we see their relationship through flashbacks. The ups, the downs and finally Noelle’s convince that having a baby will help keep Floyd’s affection. After miscarrying multiple times, she meets Ellie – her new tutee who is bright and beautiful. Noelle becomes obsessed with Ellie, thinking that being around Ellie will in some way fix her relationship with Floyd. This thinking leads her to lure Ellie into her house where she drugs her before taking her to the basement. There she impregnates her using sperm from a donor. Ellie gives birth to little girl, Poppy as a result.
Floyd is enamored with Poppy, but he still breaks up with Noelle. Ellie develops a post-partum infection, and Noelle, unwilling to take care of her, leaves her to die in the basement.
Recognizing that Noelle is an unfit mother, Floyd plans to take away Poppy from her when the child is still a toddler. Noelle, unwilling to lose her last connection to Floyd, blurts out the truth that Poppy is not their child, but instead, the daughter of a girl named Ellie. Floyd, full of anger and horror after hearing this, attacks Noelle and accidentally kills her in the process.
In present, Laurel goes to Floyd’s house on Christmas day and watches his taped confession. In the confession, he admits to killing Noelle but also explains that he truly loved Laurel and wants what’s best for her and Poppy. He entrusts Poppy to Laurel, her biological grandmother, and shortly after leaving, Floyd kills himself.
Laurel has found new meaning for her life after her daughter, Ellie, went missing. She has reconnected with her family, especially her daughter Hanna, and is now a mother to Ellie’s daughter, Poppy.