Hello bookish friends… how’s your summer reading coming along? Mine is in full swing, and today I have a new Book Notes review for you.
Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke is the duo’s fifth novel together, and their second offering in the suspense genre. I’d previously read The Year We Turned Forty (a women’s fiction with a magical twist) and enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to another good read with this thriller.
Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren have been friends for more than twenty years, but a lot of wounds have been inflicted on their friendship over time. So they agree to a girls’ trip to Mexico to bond and reconnect. But as they reunite, everyone is keeping secrets of their own, and nothing about the trip is going as planned. Their adventure culminates in a disastrous night out where one of the women goes missing, and another can’t remember anything about what happened. The story alternates among several different time points both before and after that fateful night, as we learn how things went so badly wrong. It’s truly a tale of trouble in paradise!
Whew! At its core, this book is about women’s friendships, and it seems to ask how much a friendship can survive before it implodes. Our author duo, Liz and Lisa, have themselves been best friends for decades, so they know a thing or two about complicated, long term pairings. In fact, they have described how this novel temporarily put a huge strain on their relationship through the process. In the acknowledgments of this book, they state,
“Girls’ Night Out broke us open, hard and wide, before putting us back together again. Our friendship and our partnership were put to the test in a way we’d never experienced before.”
I think we’ve all been there, right? Maybe not to the extent of the women in this book, but we all have examples of friendships being tested by life’s stresses and struggles, and by the fact that we’re all human and will inevitably disappoint one another.
The women in this book though, went beyond all that. They’d said horrible things to one another, carried huge resentments, cast blame for serious events, and kept major secrets about their own lives. They were deeply flawed. I have to say, I had a hard time finding any of them to be sympathetic characters. They all had their moments but none of them were particularly likeable, and they made poor choices again and again. That’s not to say they weren’t well written or developed… they were. I just had a hard time imagining wanting to be friends with any of them!
As I mentioned above, the story alternates between different time frames, and it also skips around to different points of view so we get a window into the thoughts of each character. It begins with one of the women, Natalie, waking up the morning after this fateful night, disoriented and with no idea what had happened the night before. She and Lauren soon realize that Ashley is missing.
As the story unfolds, we learn of all the different events and conversations that have led to this moment, then follow along as the situation is investigated. This serves well to build anticipation and make the reader wonder where the clues are leading. The message I sent a friend when I was mid-book sums it up: “I kind of want to strangle the characters, but I’m dying to find out what happened!”
We eventually do learn what happens, of course, but just as important is why and how it all ended that way. By the end, each character is second guessing their decisions, wondering “what if” they’d made different choices, and determining how to live with the consequences of this trip. (I’m purposely being pretty vague here, as it would be easy to give away spoilers.)
I do want to mention one trigger warning… the book deals with spousal/domestic abuse in part of the storyline, so please be aware of that fact.
All in all, this was a good suspense novel. The authors did a great job of setting up the scenario and balancing timeframes to unfurl the story at a nice pace, with just enough information to keep you guessing. They also painted the setting well with descriptions of the resort and the surrounding areas. I’m adding their previous book The Good Widow to my TBR list as well.
Girls’ Night Out is a great, engrossing summer beach read that will keep you turning the pages! Grab a copy here:
So… what are you reading? What’s been your can’t-miss book of the summer so far? Leave your suggestions in the comments! Happy reading!
(I received a complimentary copy of this novel from Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. All thoughts are my own.)
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