So I’m going to preface this review by saying it wont be one of my longer reviews. I don’t know if it’s my husband finishing up his PhD, getting older, the transplant surgery or what but I’ve been incredibly emotional these last few weeks, maybe longer. I’m on a hair trigger with tears – whether they’re happy tears or sad tears I’m all over the place. My husband and I watched Netflix’s new show Our Planet and I was fighting back tears the entire time. It’s honestly ridiculous. The Night Olivia Fell has been high on my 2019 TBR since I first stumbled across it. However, from the moment I began the book it was an uphill battle for me to keep going because I found myself so emotional throughout the read. So, here’s my best shot at putting all that into words.
Whether you’re a parent or not, everyone knows what a parents worst nightmare is. When Abi receives a call at 4:48 AM she knows that no good calls come at that hour. As she wakes from her sleep addled mind, from the safety of her dreams and a world in which her daughter is alive and thriving – she wakes to those nightmares realized. Her beautiful, vibrant teenage daughter Olivia is in the hospital. A terrible accident has occurred and she must get there right away. As Abi flies down roads, driving in a reckless frenzy to understand what has happened to her daughter she has no idea what lies ahead.
When Abi arrives to the hospital she finds that the daughter she knew to be so full of life and love, with a bright future ahead of her has fallen off a bridge and has no cognitive function left. As Abi grapples with the news that her entire life has been ripped away from her while she was asleep she isn’t prepared for the next bomb to be dropped. Olivia can not be laid to rest, Abi can not say goodbye to the shell of the daughter she once knew, because Olivia is pregnant and Abi had no idea. What happened to her daughter? How could Abi have considered them so close, best friends even and not known that she was pregnant? And why, does Abi feel like this wasn’t the accident everyone else seems to think it was?
To feel love was to feel fear—you just couldn’t let it dictate your life. Love was a risk, but it opened up a world of possibility, one you would never experience without it.
Wowowowowow, where do I even begin with this? McDonald really knocked it out of the park for me on the emotional side of this thriller. I was immediately drawn in right out of the gate and felt gripped by the unfolding of events. While the questions about Olivia’s pregnancy, her life, her father and what happened definitely drove me on in the story what really blew me out of the water was McDonald’s ability to make me feel so deeply connected to Abi’s pain. There were numerous times throughout reading that I had to step away because I felt my heart breaking along with Abi, it was visceral and real for me. McDonald’s writing connected to the parts of the reader that has ever felt loss.
In typical thriller fashion we’re given alternating POVs between Olivia and Abi and while sometimes I think this can be used as a tool to prolong a story unnecessarily, McDonald executed this masterfully. It added necessary development to Olivia’s character and created a lot of dimension within her relationship with her mother. While the overall mystery here is what happened to Olivia when she fell, and obviously how she got pregnant there’s a few other twists and turns about Abi’s past and Olivia’s life that get thrown in there for good measure.
Trust, I’d learned, was the greatest gift you could give, the greatest gift to receive. The belief that a person wouldn’t betray you required a strength and confidence.
I’d say my only gripe / let down is that the way this entire story concluded left me a bit wanting. There were a few plot holes in Abi’s past and how she handled settling into her life with Olivia that felt rushed and implausible to me. However, overall they were minor and didn’t detract from my overall takeaway. I was incredibly emotionally invested in Olivia and Abi’s story and I was immensely impressed with McDonald’s ability to draw me so completely into their pain.
But there are no redos in life. You can’t go back and make things better. All you can do is live with it and move forward.
It was difficult for me to get through and while I’d normally fly through a read like this, I had to take breaks to deal with all of those emotions. McDonald didn’t let up for a single moment and she had me until I was a floppy, sobbing mess on the floor at the end. However, there was a beauty to the ending that left me feeling both sad and at peace at the same time, which is how I think Abi feels in the end and there’s a poetic symmetry in that, that I found beautiful.
Long Story Short:
Suggested For: Fans of the “missing/hurt” child trope, thriller/suspense fans, anyone looking for an emotionally gripping story.
Music Mood: Saying Goodbye by J.S. Ondara
BONUS: The Traveling Sisters read this with McDonald herself! I was in my weird book slump / it hadn’t come through my library yet so I missed out but for another great review and more info, check out their post!
Have you read The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald? If so, what did you think? What are some emotional reads you’ve read? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know!