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Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Published August 2017
St. Martin’s Press
Three years ago, Cass and her sister Emma went missing.
Why is it so fun to read about dysfunctional families?
I’m releasing this video on Thanksgiving day. Seems like the PERFECT opportunity to revel in families gone bad. So break out the booze and throw the turkey and stuffing against the wall in a fit of rage. It’s time to dig in to some juicy drama.
Emma in the Night is a thriller with a dysfunctional family at its core. Emma and her younger sister Cass went missing when they were teenagers. Three years later, Cass reappears, frantic to find Emma.
Cass tells the police her carefully crafted story of what happened during those three missing years. Through flashbacks and inner dialogue, we learn that reality may not line up with Cass’s story.
Cass and Emma’s mother has narcissistic personality disorder. Hallmarks of this disorder, according to Psychology Today, include “grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration.”
Wendy Walker does a great job of describing this disorder through Dr. Abby Winter, the psychologist on the case who has issues of her own. Cass’s mother embodies narcissism to the hilt; pitting daughters against each other in a contest for her love, disposing of men, using her sexuality as a battering ram, validating her own beauty by denigrating others. She’s quite something.
The daughters are in danger of either having narcissistic personality disorder themselves, or being so damaged by their mother that they’re dysfunctional adults. And that’s where a strong part of this story comes in…
Cass is an unreliable narrator.
Cass takes both the reader and the police through the events. But it’s clear that Cass has carefully rehearsed and created her story to get the outcome she desires. Every word, premeditated.
She’s a victim, but we know we can’t trust what she’s saying. She could actually be the bad guy. There are many threads to this story, intricately woven, making it almost impossible to see through the gaps to the truth until the very (satisfying) end.
Emma in the Night delivers mental illness, family dynamics, sexual awakening, victimization, self-doubt, revenge, and plenty of delicious drama in its cast of complex characters.
For an extra kick in the pants, check out these other books with bad moms, mentioned in the video:
Purity by Jonathan Franzen
Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford
Carrie by Stephen King
Sickened by Julie Gregory