Title: Before I Wake by C.L. Taylor
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
This secret is killing me.
It’s only one line from her fifteen-year-old daughter’s diary, but Susan knows it means everything. Charlotte is smart, popular, and beautiful. She is also in a coma following what looks like a desperate suicide attempt. What’s more, Susan has no idea what compelled her daughter to step out in front of a city bus.
Did she really know her daughter at all? In her hunt for the truth, Susan begins to mistrust everyone close to Charlotte, and she’s forced to look further, into the depths of her own past. The secrets hidden there may destroy them both.
Before I Wake is an intriguing psychological thriller about a mother’s frantic search for answers about the reason for her fifteen year old daughter’s suicide attempt. This compelling novel is full of unexpected twists and turns and the skillful use of an unreliable narrator by C.L. Taylor adds another layer of mystery to the unfolding drama.
What would induce Susan “Sue” Jackson’s young, pretty and vibrant daughter Charlotte to deliberately walk in front of a bus? Haunted by this question and the certainty that fear is keeping Charlotte in a comatose state, Sue’s search for answers begins with Charlotte’s dairy. One line reverberates over and over in Sue’s mind and convinces her to continue digging for the truth. She uncovers a shocking web of lies and deceit that lead her to frightening suspicions about the people in Charlotte’s life. But as she delves into her daughter’s personal life, it soon becomes clear that the secrets from Sue’s haunting past may not be buried as deeply as she believed.
In the beginning, Sue seems like any ordinary middle-aged wife and mother. Her anxiety over Charlotte’s health is reasonable but allusions to a past “episode” coupled with her growing paranoia raise doubts about her mental state. Diary entries from a previous relationship years earlier provide valuable insight into a recent event in Sue’s life and they also explain her growing panic about mysterious packages and brief but terrifying of glimpses of someone from her past. Wild accusations and increasingly erratic behavior lead everyone to mistrust her assertions but Sue doggedly pursues the truth until she uncovers a horrifying and quite possibly, deadly plan.
Before I Wake is a clever and perplexing debut novel by C.L. Taylor. The characters are multi-faceted with all too human flaws and frailties. The intricately plotted storyline is incredibly complex and frighteningly realistic. A series of red herrings and misdirects coupled with the increasing doubts about Sue’s reliability effectively obscure the truth and the story culminates with a highly dramatic and adrenaline filled ending.