Books & Literature

Book Review: The Missing Girl, by Kerry McGinnis

MYSTERY: A highly evocative family mystery of secrets and betrayal from the bestselling author of Croc Country.

The perfect book to pair with a warm cup of tea and an afternoon treat.

Meg Morrissey was orphaned as a child, raised by her grandmother, a woman who believed children should be seen and not heard. Distancing herself from her only family, Meg is living a peaceful life with her partner Phillip, a travelling photographer.

Things begin to fall apart when her ailing grandmother summons her to Woodfell, the retirement home she has been transferred to. Her grandmother offers Meg a job tending to her garden and clearing out the family home which is up for sale. Meg has just lost her job and Phillip is away on assignment so she feels obliged to accept.

As she packs up the home she grew up in, she unravels the dark secrets it’s been hiding since her grandmother moved in as a young bride. This forces Meg to work through her childhood trauma and leaves her to question who she really is.

I became a fan of Kerry McGinnis after reading The Roadhouse and eagerly await each new release. I’m not sure if it’s a result of reading her previous books, but the twists were less of a shock this time around. What this story lacked in suspense it made up for in events. The story was more jammed packed with drama than the previous books. It was a refreshing change to read a story from one protagonist’s point of view while still having other characters getting on with their lives.

For instance, Phillip returns from an assignment, trying to process a life-changing experience but still supports Meg during her time of need. Betty, her grandmother’s next-door neighbour, is still grieving her late husband. Each character connected to Meg is continuing to move their lives forward away from the story, processing their own trauma while assisting Meg with hers. It becomes a multilayered, realistic read.

Another trait of a McGinnis story I’ve grown to love is her ability to make the reader feel connected to the characters. It’s common for her characters to take time out and relax over a good cuppa and a baked treat, be it scones, banana bread, etc. I felt so invested in the book that I often enjoyed a cup of tea and baked treats while reading, feeling relaxed and part of the story. I’ve passed three of McGinnis books onto a friend and we now hilariously call our reading and treat time ‘Teatime with Kerry’.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the multilayered characters. Meg begins the story having very strong feelings of resentment and sadness towards her grandmother. As Meg packs up her grandmother’s life, she learns more about her, understanding more about her past and giving some explanation to her actions. While it doesn’t excuse the trauma she caused Meg, it does allow Meg to see her as human; flawed and vulnerable. Meg begins to learn to understand the way she was treated as a child was a result of her grandmothers’ issues and not from anything Meg did.

I felt as though this book lined up with the current shift in mental health from, “What’s wrong with you?” to, “What happened to you?” In particular, it focuses on the fact that what happened to you doesn’t excuse bad behaviour. It simply explains it.

The Missing Girl has something for everyone, from those who enjoy easy page-turners to those who like to read stories with substance. Also, it’s a great choice for book clubs.

Reviewed by Jessica Incoll
Twitter: @littlejadventur

Distributed by: Penguin Books
Released: 2 July 2021
RRP: $32.99

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