Megan Miranda has followed up her 2019 Reese’s Book Club pick The Last House Guest with the highly anticipated The Girl from Widow Hills (Simon & Schuster).

Twenty years ago, Arden Maynor was a child prone to sleepwalking. She disappears from her house in Widow Hills, KY, during a tremendous rainstorm. Her mother suspects she was swept into an underground system of pipes, and the media and local police respond. Rescue workers are sent into the sewers and search groups into the community. 

Miraculously, six-year-old Arden is found alive three days later, gripping to a storm drain. She has no memory of the ordeal, and the implausibility of her surviving leads to further media attention. Fame follows. Fans and stalkers are relentless. Insensitively capitalizing on the trauma, her mother writes a book about her disappearance. Arden feels hunted, and the sustained spotlight is as haunting to her as the incident itself.

EVEN WITH HER NEW LIFE, SHE CANNOT ESCAPE HER PAST

Arden eventually changes her name to Olivia and moves hundreds of miles away to Central Valley, NC. Under her new identity, Olivia keeps a low profile as a hospital administrator, telling no one of her traumatic past, not even her colleague and closest friend, Bennett.

As the twentieth anniversary of Arden’s disappearance approaches media interest in her returns. Soon Olivia suspects she’s being watched, and the fear of exposure brings back the night terrors and sleepwalking. One night, her neighbor, a kindly older man named Rick, finds her outside and brings her home. It happens again, but this time Olivia is awoken when she stumbles over a dead body on the property line she shares with Rick — and discovers her hands are covered in blood. 

She runs to Rick’s house, and he helps her inside and even tries to conceal what he suspects is her involvement in the crime. The suspense builds as detective Nina Rigby doggedly investigates Olivia and Rick. The corpse turns out to be the body of a man named Sean, who was involved in Arden’s rescue twenty years earlier. 

INTO THE GLARE OF THE SPOTLIGHT ONCE AGAIN

While Olivia tries to conceal her real identity from the detectives and questions her possible involvement in the murder, additional murder suspects and potentially her long term stalker emerges. When the media finds out where Olivia lives, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story again, but this time she’s also a suspect in a murder.

Olivia makes for an atypical heroine. The limits she creates out of her fear of being exposed to the spotlight and the remembrances she walls off from herself are echoed in Miranda’s writing style, which is very matter of fact, almost journalistic in tone. There is much here that will satisfy readers who enjoy similarly straightforward thrillers or detective novels with exciting and unexpected twists. Miranda’s style is reminiscent of authors like Casey Barrett, A.F. Brady, Wendy Walker and Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen.

Beyond the suspenseful storyline, The Girl from Widow Hills is an exploration of how trauma can shape and limit a life. There is a danger in never exploring such trauma, in capitulating to the desire to forget. In Olivia’s case, it is a trauma that is only magnified by the media spotlight, and she struggles to understand and accept the uncontrollable nature of it all. In the end, she cannot escape the damages of either.

Buy this book!

Photo © Magen Marie Photography

Megan Miranda is the New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing GirlsThe Perfect Stranger and The Last House Guest, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick. She has also written several books for young adults, including Come Find MeFragments of the Lost and The Safest Lies. She grew up in New Jersey, graduated from MIT and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children.