Saving Sophie by Sam Carrington
I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks so much to the publisher for granting me the opportunity to read an ARC of this.
Karen Finch’s daughter, Sophie, is delivered to her doorstep by the police at 10:30PM on one seemingly normal Saturday evening. It’s clear that Sophie is drunk, but when she seems to be talking gibberish and can’t remember a thing about the night before in the morning, Karen is certain that something more than alcohol is at play. Sophie’s friend Amy hasn’t turned up after that Saturday night, and Sophie is trying her best to try and remember what took place so she can get her friend back. But Karen is certain that Sophie isn’t telling the police everything she knows; she’s taking it upon herself to fix what’s going on. She was attacked in the past, and now she’s sure her daughter is in danger, but the fact that she has agoraphobia and can’t make it past the front door without having a vicious anxiety attack is something she needs to navigate around if she wants to save her daughter.
I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers. When executed well, they have the potential to evoke such strong responses from readers. Saving Sophie had all the potential to be one of these thrillers. It involves a family-centered relationship between an emotionally vulnerable mother and a daughter who is obviously hiding something, even though her friend is missing. But unfortunately, the book just didn’t grip me. I was mostly aggravated throughout the novel, frustrated that the characters were taking all this responsibility onto their shoulders when they could have easily gone to the police. Realistically speaking, this story wouldn’t have existed had the characters simply told what they knew to the cops- I know that it was important that the authorities were uninvolved from a storytelling perspective. But I’d at least hoped that the characters had a valid motive for not telling them- Sophie didn’t go to the police because she’d look like a “slag,” and Karen didn’t go to the police because, well, I have no idea. I didn’t buy their reluctance, and it made me frustrated more than anything else.
The mystery itself felt overly simplistic. It wasn’t predictable, but perhaps that was because I wasn’t invested enough in the story to start predicting what was going to happen. I was reading just to be reading, rather than reading to know what happens next. The only hurdles in the characters’ way were their strange reluctance to contact the authorities and Karen’s anxiety, which I felt could have definitely been explored more. As it existed now, it felt more like a plot device than an empathetic exploration of agoraphobia, or a way to develop Karen’s character.
Speaking of characters, most of these people fell flat. I suspect that has a lot to do with the inconsistencies in their personalities. I was a little skeptical that Karen’s husband Mike would be completely unsympathetic to her condition one second, and then full of worry immediately after. From the beginning, the reader gets the impression that Karen and Mike’s relationship is strained- their marriage was failing, I can say, but this wasn’t explored at all. It was given so much emphasis initially that I expected it to come into play somewhere along the mystery, but it was completely dropped. Another storyline that was dropped after being emphasized was Karen’s relationship with her best friend. Again, it wasn’t explored and the loose end bothered me. Back to characterization: Sophie would one second be a typical brooding, mean teenager, and the next second she’d be the most empathetic character in the novel. Karen would be on one of two extreme ends: overreacting with worry where anyone else would be relaxed, and completely at ease when the best of us would be concerned. I never felt that I knew these characters and who they were- they were all over the place, which made it extremely difficult to get attached to them.
Carrington’s writing style is entertaining enough to get you to keep reading. I would have preferred if the narrative wasn’t riddled with questions, but I liked her writing enough. I just didn’t think that it paired well with all the other problems in the novel.