Title: Girls’ Night Out
Author: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Date of Publication: July 24, 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Three estranged friends go on a vacation to Tulum, Mexico to try to repair their damaged friendship. When one of them goes missing on their girls’ night out, the other two must try to patch together their fragmented memories of what happened that night to find out what really happened to her…
This is a character-driven story about three insufferable, self-centered, and unrelatable women. It’s nice to read a book about three professional women, but they are each more selfish and unlikable than the last. The secrets they’re “hiding” (at least, according to the description of the book), barely keep the plot moving forward. There’s a lot of dialogue, with a lot of roundabout conversations that don’t end up anywhere. I don’t particularly understand why they’re friends, or even why they’re attempting to repair their relationship. The three “girls” (women who are pushing forty—but I guess the book had to profit off the word “girl” being in the title) don’t ever learn from their mistakes. They have no empathy for one another, even though they’re all going through similar experiences in their lives.
Fenton and Steinke effectively implement a dual timeline in this story. By jumping forward in time, we get to see the panic that Natalie and Lauren feel when Ashley goes missing. The past timeline provides us with the days leading up to her disappearance, providing clues as to what truly happened to her.
I didn’t like any of the characters. I almost felt for Ashley, but she invites her estranged friends on a trip and then spends most of her time with a man she’s just met—even though she’s married. Her marriage is on the rocks – which makes this almost justifiable, but not when she’s supposed to be out with the girls. She’s just as selfish as the other two, but I say I almost felt for her because she was the only one who seemed to actually want to work on the friendship, despite not actually putting any effort into it.
This book is chock-full of introspection. It felt like over half the book is the characters thinking about their children, their families, their work, their hatred of one another… There is very little suspense in the story until 73% into it, and even at that point, the plot is so slow moving that hardly anything happens. Fenton and Steinke do include several red herrings throughout the novel, which is appreciated, and there’s a mildly surprising twist at the end of the story. I say it’s mildly surprising because I was expecting something more thrilling to happen, and the lacklustre conclusion was surprising given the high ratings of this book.
Told from the perspectives of all three characters, there isn’t a clear distinction in their voices. A few times I had to go back to the beginning of the chapter I was reading to check whose POV I was on. The writing style also leaves something to be desired. There aren’t any flowery descriptions or sardonic observations to grasp onto.
I feel like I’ve read this book before. This book is 90% tropes (like the unreliable narrator, the inconvenient “amnesia”) and 10% Mayan pyramids (the scene where they’re illicitly climbing a pyramid is honestly the highlight of the book, until they start arguing nonsensically, of course). I recommend this book to those who enjoy character-driven women’s fiction, not those who want a suspenseful psychological thriller.
*I received a review copy of this ARC from Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley*
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