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Why I Stayed up Too Late Reading This Book

Saturday, March 18, 2017 6:03
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Staying up because of a good book feels great, doesn’t it? I mean, sure, the next day, you’re sleepier than normal. Maybe you have a little less energy to complete your daily routine, but you are this way because you fell in love with an author’s story and–You. Couldn’t. Put. It. Down.

This happened to me this week. I won’t keep you in suspense about the book. It was What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan. And I am in complete shock that the book affected me in this way. Here’s the scoop.
I received this book for my birthday in February 2016! (Yes, one year ago–that’s not a typo.) I was excited because it was a book doing well in the public eye and by a debut author–plus the cover just looks like “my kind of book”. And then I read the synopsis on the back. 

In a heartbeat, everything changes…

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most.

Where is Ben? The clock is ticking…

As you know from reading this blog, last year I was having trouble reading and going through a divorce. I am also the single mother of a beautiful 6-year-old girl. I couldn’t imagine reading a book about this subject–ever. But something happened a week ago. I picked up the book and thought: Just give it a try. I don’t have to finish it if it’s too much for me to read. So I opened it and I read, and I was drawn in.

Why? Well, Gilly MacMillan has crafted a beautiful novel–she created characters that you might know in real life. She took the time to write sentences that sing and create emotions in you. But most of all, she wrote a thriller, and I wanted to watch a master at work. I wanted to learn from her how to weave a story like this, and so I plowed on.

I’ll admit that I had to skip some passages. There are times once Ben goes missing that Rachel spends hours in his room, and I couldn’t bear those. But you know what? That’s good writing. Actually, that’s excellent writing. I have no idea if Gilly is a mother, but what I do know is that she put herself in the mind of a divorced mom who had lost everything that matters, and then she wrote an amazing book.

Every time I read a book that touches me like this, it brings my passion for our craft back to the front of my life. And so even though I didn’t sleep as much this week, I’m thankful that books like this exist. I’d love to know a book that has kept you up past your bedtime either recently or not so…after all, we can always catch up on our sleep tomorrow. 


Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, teacher, and writing coach, living in St. Louis, MO. You can find out more about her on or sign up for her novel writing course at .

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