Rating: 4 / 5
I found a copy of DON’T BREATHE A WORD by Jennifer McMahon on a used book store trip earlier this year. When I saw it was available on audio book from the library last week I decided to download it. I wound up reading a bit in print, but mostly used the audiobook.
DON’T BREATHE A WORD focuses on two main characters in different timelines. 12 year old Lisa went into the woods to meet the King of the Fairies and was never seen again. Our second main POV character Phoebe hears the story and becomes obsessed, long plagued by her own nightmares of otherworldly creatures.
Fifteen years after Lisa’s disappearance Phoebe is now in love with Lisa’s brother Sam. When things begin to show up related to that long cold case, Phoebe and Sam are sucked back into the story. The story is played out in Lisa’s voice from long ago and in Phoebe’s in the present day.
I picked up this book having enjoyed the author’s THE WINTER PEOPLE last year. I didn’t know anything about this one going into it, but the story line with Lisa’s disappearance kept me interested. That said it isn’t an entirely easy read and there are trigger warnings for mental health, suicide, and sexual abuse.
The book and the characters within it play around a lot with what is and what isn’t reality. While this kept me wanting to know what was going on, I think it had the unintended side effect of making it hard to really engage with the characters. We know that Phoebe is haunted by demons from her past including inappropriate relationships with men at a young age and her mother’s mental health issues. Sam’s own family was fairly well broken by Lisa’s disappearance and there are a lot of unanswered questions there.
Overall this book left me with mixed feelings, but I definitely would read more from Jennifer McMahon in the future.