We Can't Pay Our Own Debts (All The Missing Girls Book Review)



I recently started listening to “What Should I Read Next?”, which is a podcast by Anne Bogel (otherwise known as Modern Mrs. Darcy).  I've been enjoying it - it's the perfect podcast for book nerds!  She puts out a summer reading guide every year, and this year I picked up a few books on her list to check out.  All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda was one of them, and I gave it a try because the story sounded interesting.  It’s a secular book, and I find that reviews of secular books need more breaking down than Christian books, so here we go.



Story  

In this story, Nic Farrell returns to her hometown to help sell her childhood home to take care of her aging father - but she is haunted by proverbial ghosts of what happened there in her teens, when her best friend disappeared.  Shortly after she arrives, another girl disappears.  

The most interesting part of this book is the way the story is told.  We get a brief introduction, and then the story jumps two weeks into the future and is told backward from there.  We get glimpses of what happened before Corinne disappeared ten years earlier, amidst the current investigation into what happened to the girl who most recently disappeared.  The ending was…interesting. 

Writing

The writing in this book is pretty masterful, in my opinion.  The story was told backward.  I don’t know how you tell a mystery story backward so that it makes sense, but this author did it beautifully.  The way the author communicated her underlying themes (see below) was also done very poignantly.  You get the idea of poetry, without there actually being any poetry, and the tone had notes of mystery and melancholy, which fit well with the plot.  I got a really strong sense of characters and place, all woven into the larger story in such a natural way.  It was nicely done. 

Language

The language in this book is pretty much atrocious.  Many uses of “d” word, “f” word, other more minor cuss words, and the Lord’s name in vain (which I do not appreciate as a Christian).  This is a completely secular book, so I expected some cussing, but it was rather dense in some chapters.

Sexual Content

Nothing explicit, but several sexual relationships outside of marriage, including some cheating.  Two of the female characters also rinse off in a shower together at one point in the story.

Message

It honestly took me a while to sort out my feelings about the story and message behind it.  I’m going to try to tell what I thought about it without giving anything away here.

The themes throughout this book were that no one is trustworthy, everyone has an inner darkness and secrets, and if you love someone you will keep their secrets.  I would say the underlying message of this story was pretty grim, but the idea that we all have “darkness” to battle is not too far off from the truth.  We do all have sinful hearts, but that is why we need Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins so sin no longer has the power over us.  The way this story plays out is the exact opposite of the gospel story, with darkness and secrets running rampant, and a web of lies being spun to cover it all up.  If you want a mystery/suspense book that ends in justice being done, this is not the book for you.  

The most troubling part of the way this book played out though is the idea that if you love someone, you will keep their secrets.  The storytelling style suggests that there is something beautiful about loving someone enough to keep their dirty little secrets.  I do not like or agree with that.  Is it really loving someone to let them live under the weight of their own secrets, to have their entire life tainted by what they’ve done? To take away any chance at true redemption, because in order to confess they will be exposing your secrets too?  I don’t think love was so much at play here.  Maybe initially the characters were driven by love to cover up for each other, but after that it becomes self-preservation, to not tell the secrets of others because if they do, they will have to confess to theirs as well.  That’s not pretty, and it’s not true love.  It’s not love to doom someone to a lifetime of fear that their secrets will eventually come out, and to bind them to do the same for you, because no one wants to be the person who tells.

Needless to say, the ending was not satisfying to me.  Throughout the book, “debts’ are referenced in Nic’s internal monologue, the debts that everyone must pay to each other.  A macabre credit/debit system.  But the thing is, with this story, no one truly pays off their debts.  Instead they add more and more, paying “bills” with a proverbial credit card, until I can’t honestly see how they aren’t crushed by the weight of it all.  There is no hope for redemption here, no hope for true beauty in the future, not as long as these secrets remain hidden, and that’s sad.  

This book, weirdly enough, reminded me of the hope we have in Jesus.  Maybe seeing such a stark contrast, everyone desperately trying to hide their sin, emphasized to me why the Gospel stands out as something blindingly beautiful, something you would never think of on your own.  People have always tried to pay our own “debts” but we never can.  What is missing in this book is the truth that we can't and don’t have to pay our own debts.  Jesus died to pay our debts for us, and when we confess our sins and turn to Him, He will wash the slates clean.  The cleansing comes only from Him, after the “secrets” are told.  That is where we find redemption.  That is true love.  Salvation through the blood of Jesus is the only thing that can really give someone hope for a brighter tomorrow, untainted by buried sin.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for free through NetGalley.  This is my honest opinion.



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Michelle said...

I LOVE the way you wrote this review. It's so helpful.

Callie Nicole said...

Ah, thanks Michelle! I'm trying to be a little more detailed with secular book reviews so people know what they are getting into. :-)

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