In “Wish You Were Gone,” author Kieran Scott forces us to confront a marriage that has shattered into so many pieces that it would take a magician to put them back together. In fact, as we learn later, Emma Walsh had been planning on meeting with her husband James on the evening before his fatal accident to talk about their marriage, but he never showed up. The Walshes are an example of a seemingly perfect family: huge perfectly decorated home, expensive cars, a son who excels in sports, a daughter who loves theater, and a wife who does nothing but keep their house lovely and her husband’s suits cleaned.
But we quickly learn that, as is often the case, appearances are misleading. And in the case of the Walshes, appearances are not just misleading, they are downright lies. For the Walshes are a family in crisis, and the death of James Walsh unleashes all kinds of hell that Emma and her two children, Kelsey and Hunter, are forced to reckon with.
The story is told from several points of view—mostly those of the women characters. We hear from Emma and Kelsey and from Emma’s two best friends, Gray and Lizzie. We also hear a bit from Darnell, Gray’s husband and James’ business partner and best friend. Together, the two men had a very successful public relations firm and represented top professional athletes and other A-list people. Gray is a successful attorney while Lizzie struggles to make ends meet with her gift shop and decorating. Lizzie is a single mom, and we don’t know who her daughter Willow’s father is. We also get to know Emma’s and Lizzie’s children. Hunter and Willow are the same age and are very close. Lately, we understand, Kelsey and Willow have gotten closer, but there is a darkness in Willow that is quickly revealed.
When Emma and Hunter discover James after his car crashes through the wall of their garage, he is dead. And while to all appearances it looks like he was drunk and unable to stop the car, something about the scene bothers Emma. She vacillates about investigating James and his actions prior to the crash as she begins to suspect that he was having an affair. What we come to understand is that the truth is much more complex than just an affair. We come to see how completely despicable James Walsh really was and how many people there were who would have liked to see him dead.
So we are left to wonder: Was the crash an accident, or did someone engineer his death?
Having the narrative shared from multiple points of view, albeit in third person, has the advantage of allowing us glimpses into the minds of all the characters—or at least most of them. On some level, though, I wish that we had gotten to know Emma better and that hers was the only narrative. That’s not to say that the strategy of multiple POVs doesn’t work, because it does. But as a result, we don’t get to know Emma well, and I really wanted to understand her more deeply.
There are many aspects of the novel that are quite effective. In addition to the multiple points of view, Scott intersperses chapters about the hours leading up to the accident that provide us with a growing, suspenseful timeline of what James did that previous day and how he spent his last hours and minutes. There are twists at the end that I did not see coming. Also, I enjoyed the window into what seem to be “perfect” neighborhoods and “perfect” homes and families. Particularly affecting are the heartbreaking ravages that pro contact sports can wreak on an athlete’s body. Readers will also witness the damage that violence and the threat of violence can do to children of abusers. There is much to digest after all the secrets are revealed, and this novel presents a story that raises issues that beg to be discussed and pondered.
Please note: This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.