Never Wave Goodbye – Book Review

She wasn’t duped so much by a clever individual as she was by her own expectations. We see what we want to see. Magicians and con artists know this about us. We are blind and trusting at the same time. We trust our interpretations of what we see because to do otherwise would paralyze us. We are all blind. – from Never Wave Goodbye, page 1 –

Lena Trainor puts her nine year old daughter Sarah on a camp van with some mixed feelings – it is the first time Sarah has been away from home, but Lena is also looking forward to spending some time with her husband David and hoping to fix the cracks in their marriage. When a short time later the real camp van shows up, Lena’s ambivalence quickly turns to horror as she realizes her daughter has been kidnapped. Also taken in by the kidnapper’s ruse are three other families whose children were also picked up by the fake camp driver.

Debut novelist Doug Magee spins out his story of what follows – the police investigation, the ransom demand, the FBI involvement – along with some glimpses into the parents’ marriages and psychological states. Early on, the reader is clued in that the kidnapping may not be all that it seems…and in fact, there is a twist at the end.

I wanted to love this book. I thought its premise was great – what worse scenario could a parent imagine than handing over their child to someone who wishes to hold them captive? But, Magee’s first effort fell flat for me in large part because I never felt like I got inside the characters’ heads. Magee chose to write his novel from an omniscient point of view – a difficult venture for even the most talented author – and this choice, I believe, was why I felt removed from the characters. I wanted to feel the agony of the parents, the fears of the children, the evil mindset of the perpetrators…but instead, I felt almost nothing from them. Instead of riveting dialogue and fast paced action, this story is pretty much told to the reader as though it were a news report.

Magee’s background as a screenwriter might explain the narrative flow. I could actually see this novel being made into a movie. I have read a few screenplays in my life, and the book definitely had the feel of a movie (as though the action was being directed by a producer). Perhaps it was this sense of being led through the story rather than living it which made me feel let down.

I’m sorry I won’t be able to recommend Never Wave Goodbye, although some bloggers have really enjoyed it. For more opinions on this novel, check out the reviews below.

Other reviews:

*If you’ve reviewed this book and would like me to add your link above, please drop me a comment with the link to your review.

FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.

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  1. I’m sorry this one didn’t work for you – I agree that the premise is outstanding.

  2. Wow, it sounds like it could have been amazing. Sorry it didn’t work for you!

    • Kay on September 18, 2010 at 12:47

    Wendy, I understand what you are talking about in this book, at least looking back on it I do. I read this one right before we went on vacation. I liked it quite a bit better than you did. However, I needed something I could pick up and put down and I think the “script-like” narrative worked better for me in that situation. Interestingly, I did not write a review because I was taking a break at the time, so I didn’t have to try to put my feelings into words. I think it would make a good movie.

    • Staci on September 18, 2010 at 14:49

    If I don’t feel a connection then it is all downhill from there. I appreciate your balanced review.

  3. Oh, what a bummer that it didn’t work out! 🙁

    • zibilee on September 19, 2010 at 16:29

    It sounds like the book had an awesome premise, but horrible execution and I am not sure if I would have liked it either, what with the way you described it. I am sorry that this book fell so flat for you.

    • Nicola on September 20, 2010 at 09:38

    Oh dear, this is getting mixed reviews. What a drag!

    • Wendy on October 1, 2010 at 06:04

    Kathy: I was disappointed I didn’t love it.

    Book Worm: Me too!

    Kay: Thanks for weighing in. I do think other readers have enjoyed the book more than I did.

    Staci: Thanks.

    Book Chick: My thoughts exactly!

    Zibilee: *nods* Great premise, so-so execution….bummer, huh?

    Nicola: I haven’t read a ton of reviews…but what I’ve read does look like a mixed bag.

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