Reggie Dufrane has worked hard to forget about her past. She left her hometown to attend a boarding school during her high school years, and when she went off to college, she never looked back. Her mother, Vera, was serial killer Neptune’s last victim, and unlike his previous victims, her body was never found. One day, though, 25 years later, Reggie receives a call from her aunt, saying that Vera has been found alive, although suffering from cancer and battling the consequences of alcohol for many years. Reggie returns home, not only to care for her mother, but to finally confront her past in order to move ahead with her future.
While not being an edge-of-your-seat thriller, The One I Left Behind is plenty suspenseful and I stayed up fairly late because I had to know what happens next. The book straddles both the present and the past; in the present Reggie is figuring out how to care for her mother, how to communicate with her in Vera’s debilitating state, how to overcome the 25 year void since her mother disappeared, and also how to find how the real identity of Neptune. In the past, McMahon presents the relationship between Reggie, her childhood friends Tara and Charlie, and her family, Aunt Lorraine and George. Understanding what transpired in the past is important to understand how the characters relate to each other.
I loved both the past and the present storylines. I was interested in the past because I wanted to know how things came to be- why did Reggie, Charlie and Tara stop talking? What event changed irrevocably changed their friendships? With the present, I was completely drawn into the fact that Neptune resurfaced. Why was Vera the only one let go? And had Neptune kept tabs on her for 25 years?
I think McMahon did a fantastic job intertwining both threads. The present couldn’t have been told without the past, and both were intriguing and compelling in their own right. I enjoyed this novel immensely and will definitely be checking out McMahon’s other works.