Title: Never Knowing
Author: Chevy Stevens
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“All her life, Sara Gallagher has wondered about her birth parents. As an adopted child with two sisters who were born naturally to her parents, Sara did not have an ideal home life. The question of why she was given up for adoption has always haunted her. Finally, she is ready to take steps and to find closure.
But some questions are better left unanswered.
After months of research, Sara locates her birth mother—only to be met with horror and rejection. Then she discovers the devastating truth: Her mother was the only victim ever to escape a killer who has been hunting women every summer for decades. But Sara soon realizes the only thing worse than finding out about her father is him finding out about her.
What if murder is in your blood?”
Thoughts: Fans of Chevy Stevens’ debut novel, Still Missing, will rejoice to find out that with her second novel, Never Knowing, she remains a stunning storyteller. Her ability to draw her readers into the story, to feel the emotional pain and tension of her characters continues to improve. Better yet, she is able to put a human face on an otherwise horrific situation, creating sympathy where none would normally exist and where it is least expected. The result is a novel that is just as thrilling and as stunning as her debut with an added emotional depth and complexity that showcases Ms. Stevens’ growing writing ability.
Never Knowing uses the same storytelling element as in her first novel, using Sara’s visits to her psychiatrist as the introduction to each new chapter. While it works, and is still extremely effective, Ms. Stevens’ story shines when Sara is telling her story as if it is happening the first time. Each new mention about a missed appointment, discussion of previous stress management techniques or other reminders that the main character is narrating to her psychiatrist does nothing but draw the reader out of the story thereby reducing the tension. One cannot help but wonder how much more powerful the story would be had Ms. Stevens bypassed this narrative element.
In spite of this one niggling distraction, Never Knowing‘s exploration into the life left behind by a serial killer is intense. Through Sara’s continuing conversations with her birth father, the reader is able to explore the reasons why or how someone becomes a serial killer. Of even greater importance is the idea of family and the important role it plays on developing a child’s adult personality. Her need to achieve some form of recognition and love from her prickly, overbearing adopted father fuels Sara’s desire to find out about her birth parents and ultimately leads to everything that happens after that initial contact is made. Similarly, through John’s revelations about his own childhood, the reader is left wondering what might have been had John’s own parents been less strict and more capable of recognizing a debilitating physical condition. The what-ifs are plentiful and only add to the mystery and tension as the drama unfolds.
With her second novel, Ms. Stevens lets the world know that she is as talented as Still Missing promised. Even better, Never Knowing highlights Ms. Stevens’ growing maturity in her writing. Sara, Evan, John and the entire cast of characters come to life under her pen, making it so easy for the reader to lose him/herself in the story. The emotional gamut Sara faces, from the sisterly conflict to the guilt to the fear and eventual anger, becomes the reader’s emotions, which only adds to the intensity of the story itself.
A suspenseful and thrilling ride, Never Knowing does not disappoint in any way. Ms. Stevens is quickly proving herself to be an author deserving of all the acclaim and accolades that is sure to come her way. With a great start and an even stronger follow-up novel, I cannot wait to see what she has in store for her readers next.
Thank you to Sara Goldstein from St. Martin’s Press for my advanced reading copy!