The Girl from Widow Hills review: A mystery that takes you on a ride

An honest review of The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

One of the latest thrillers available to buy is The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda. It’s a twisty tale that reminds you sometimes the past just doesn’t want to let you go.

I received an advance copy thanks to NetGalley in return for an honest review. I give my full thoughts on this novel, as someone who hasn’t yet read any of Miranda’s work. However, I can tell you now that she’s an author on my must-read list.

The book is about Olivia Mayor, who was born Arden Olivia Maynor. When she was six, she was washed away by a flash flood and not found for three days. After days of searching, one person found her. Now she’s known as The Girl from Widow Hills, a name that she wants to escape as much as possible.

Picking up 20 years later, we find her living a quiet life. However, the past is about to come back to haunt her, and it all starts with a dead body she finds on the line between her property and her neighbor’s.

A twisty murder mystery

You’d think that the big mystery is who killed the man Olivia finds. By the end of it, it’s soon clear that’s not it at all. The real mystery has had clues sprinkled within the book from the very start.

It’s all about who Olivia really is and what happened to her on that fateful night. She doesn’t remember anything, but it’s clear there’s more to the story than she can share. There are stories that others know, a dark truth that she needs to remember.

And yet, there is still the murder mystery. Our sleepwalking protagonist was the one to wake up and find him. Now the big question is whether she was the one to murder the man while sleepwalking. Naturally, there are all sorts of clues that make you wonder if it was her. But there are also clues that tell you the real story throughout.

A great mixture of past and present

One thing I thoroughly enjoyed about the book was the use of the transcripts and articles at the end of each chapter. They brought the past to life, taking us through 9-1-1 dispatch calls, articles the papers had written, stories of news reporters on air, and chapters from a book Olivia’s mom had written.

They help to develop this story of what happened in the past. They give us a chance to delve into the story, understand everything that Olivia is trying to run away from.

Eventually, these sections push to the five-year anniversary, the 10-year anniversary, and then to the present day. We get to see the thoughts of others, the opinions of the events, and the opinions of our protagonist.

They’re not the main part of the story, though. If you don’t want to read these reflections of the past, they can be skipped over, but they certainly help to add a new layer to the story. After all, The Girl from Widow Hills is written in the first-person point of view. The connections to the past give us the third-person viewpoint from various people to find out what they did and who they are.

Yet, most of the book is in the present. We’re following Olivia on this journey. We find out who she is, what she thinks, what she’s running from. Everything we learn is anything Olivia learns, allowing us to meet new people and new suspects.

With our main focus being on whether Olivia is guilty, it makes sense to keep the focus on her thoughts and feelings. We’re trying to work things out at the same time as her, seeing the world through her eyes. Usually, with first-person POV, I feel limited; like we don’t get to know the other characters enough, such as with Three Perfect Liars. I didn’t feel those limitations with this book due to the focus being on learning with Olivia as we went on.

A great twist I should have seen coming

When I got to the end of the book with the big twist (no spoilers), I felt like it’s something I should have noticed. I got so focused on the murder investigation that I didn’t stop to think about other elements, about all the clues sprinkled all the way through.

This is one of those novels that I could easily read for a second time, and I don’t usually reread or rewatch a lot. There are sprinklings of clues from the beginning that were there at the back of my mind, but I brushed off.

Now I’ve told you, you’ll probably look out for them. I hope that doesn’t ruin things for you and instead deepens the mystery throughout the novel.

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Plenty of takeaways from The Girl from Widow Hills

Something that I did walk away from was that thought of trying to escape your past. We all try to escape something from our pasts, but it’s not always possible. In Olivia’s case, she even changes her name and still can’t escape everything. The past doesn’t always want to let go.

The connections to the calls and the articles help to remind us that Olivia is never really going to escape as much as she likes. Other people don’t want to forget. The people involved in the search and rescue of her want to get answers or some sort of reward for their help.

I also got a sense of human nature at its worse. One of the reasons Olivia wants to escape is because of what people say to her. They claim that she owes everyone for the life she had, forgetting that she’s the one who went through the three-day ordeal.

Not everyone is able to empathize. Some people continue to twist things to serve their own gain, and they make a victim feel bad for being a victim and not being grateful for help. Olivia isn’t just trapped by her past but trapped by the people who won’t let go.

Star rating: 4.5 stars

I’d love to give the novel five stars, but can any book be perfect? I’ve never come across one. This book did take me about 20 pages to get into it, which isn’t actually that bad. There are books that can take me 200 pages to get into them. There was just a lot of focus on initially building the characters and their relationships, something that I think could have possibly been sprinkled into the story a little bit.

The one downside to the first-person POV was not really getting a sense of the detective’s personality. Conversations with Olivia could have been extended or made deeper to get some sort of idea who Nina was and what she was actually searching for. I still don’t know if she suspected Olivia at first or not.

But overall, this was a page-turner. It’s so great that I now have a list of new books to buy by Megan Miranda.

Next: Little Fires Everywhere book review

The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda is now available to buy on Amazon.