All Who Wander
Square Tire Books
Published September 5th, 2023
All Who Wander is a dark psychological thriller set in New England, by an author who is new to me. I received an invitation to read it from the publisher, and thought the blurb sounded intriguing, so decided to give it a go. I liked the writing and was drawn into the mystery, but ultimately was disappointed by the ending and didn’t like any of the characters.
Told in two timelines, this has 20 year old college dropout Brooke running away from her dysfunctional family and abusive boyfriend, only to crash her car during a snowstorm and disappear. Twenty two years later, her younger brother Robert is now a happily married professor of engineering, who has put his difficult childhood behind him and has just been awarded a prestigious prize. Then a young woman contacts him claiming to be Brooke’s daughter, and his life rapidly spirals out of control. As we alternate between their very different perspectives, the shocking reason behind Brooke’s fateful decision is revealed.
I enjoyed the writing, the tension and the twisty plot for most of this, which was why I was so disappointed by the “is that it?” ending which fails to wrap up most of the storyline and delivers some underwhelming twists. Neither Brooke nor Robert are remotely likeable – she steals drugs from dying patients and is horrible to her poor fat orphaned 14 year old brother Bobby, and he’s an arrogant judgemental knowitall. This wouldn’t matter if there was some kind of redemption in the plot, but it just leaves his fate unresolved. I also have an intense dislike of present tense narration which further put me off his chapters.
What I really didn’t like was the inclusion of a completely unnecessary episode of animal cruelty which is revealed to have been inflicted on Robert’s dog, although we don’t see it happening, and he does survive. Ironically Robert muses about Stephen King’s bemusement that he got more complaints from readers about hurting a fictional dog than any of the horrific things that he’s done to his human characters. When will authors learn? I’m sorry but if you have to put an apology for something in your afterword, maybe just go back and delete it? It wasn’t awful enough to stop me continuing the book, but it would put me off reading any more from this author. Other reviewers have rated this higher than I did and clearly enjoyed it more so don’t let my lukewarm assessment of it deter you if you like this kind of disturbing thriller. Thanks to NetGalley and for the ARC.