In the vein of Big Little Lies and Reconstructing Amelia comes an emotionally charged domestic suspense novel about a mother unraveling the truth behind how her daughter became brain dead. And pregnant.
A search for the truth. A lifetime of lies.
In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.
When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?
Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heartwrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you?
The Night Olivia Fell concerns Abi Knight, a single mum, trying to unearth the mystery around her daughter Olivia, falling from a bridge which has rendered her brain dead. She’s been told it was a tragic accident, but why does Olivia have bruises that look awfully suspicious? And as Abi learns she knew so little of what was going on in Olivia’s life, what else could she learn that could perhaps hold the answers to what happened to Olivia at the ZigZag Bridge?
I liked the mother/daughter story dynamic, as the narration alternated between Abi and Olivia. It took me a while to warm to Abi, as initially I couldn’t empathise with her, but toward the end of the book it became impossible not to. She was a complicated character, but first and foremost, a committed and loving mother, that lived for her daughter. I felt her story was fully developed, which was nice, as I didn’t expect an exploration of her character going into the story.
Like Abi’s character, Olivia was difficult to connect with as well. I think I connected to her on a level as I knew where her story ended. All in all, Olivia is that character where you say, “what a poor girl”. She was young and naive, and by the end of the book, that wholesomeness had been corrupted but was on the mend, which made the storyline sadder.
Also, I liked the fact that there was an element of optimism in this story. We find out early on Olivia is pregnant, which provides the story and the reader with a little relief that as dark as the story may get, there was a light ray of light in the room because of the upcoming baby. Usually mysteries/thrillers etc, are so taunt with suspense and what not, I found this happiness in amongst tragedy quite nice.
It’s not a heavy criticism, but it really became annoying when the expression “Olivia’s fall” was used repeatedly, to tie it to the book’s title. Whether or not the story’s conclusion would confirm that Olivia did indeed fall, at some point someone would call it an “accident” instead. This was my only gripe with the story, that at some points, the writing wasn’t very true-to-life or good.
I would definitely say this book is not a thriller; there’s very little to no big twists and turns. It was more like a mystery-drama than a mystery-thriller. As a mystery-drama, which is how I’m going to describe it, as that’s what it largely was, the book was excellent. The last few chapters had me in tears. The mystery of “is this a whodunnit? If so, whodunnit?” was engaging. I really commend McDonald for creating a handful of potential outcomes, which made it exciting to try and settle on one of the scenarios as THE big reveal.
Overall, I did enjoy this book, the story’s premise was really interesting, and I was satisfied with its ending. I’ve decided to rate it 4 stars as a mystery-drama. I would recommend it to those who likes mysteries, but as a thriller, I wouldn’t. If I were to consider it as a thriller, my rating would be much lower. There were virtually no scares or thrills in this, and where the plot attempted to do such scares, it wasn’t developed enough to have such impact. So, I feel it fair for prospective readers to be aware that this is the case – it’s a mystery-drama, not a mystery-thriller. For those who like dramatic mysteries, I genuinely would recommend it.
The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald
Published February 2019
*Thank you kindly to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with an e-copy, in exchange for this honest review.