In Gone Without a Trace (Berkley, Apr.), Hannah Monroe, a successful accounting firm employee, comes home one day to the house she shares with her live-in boyfriend, Matt Stone, to find him gone.
Most of us have experienced the end of a relationship and having to come to terms with life without someone we loved. Usually a breakup is preceded by fights, and it’s pretty clear to each party why the relationship has ended, though there are some who enjoy the mind games of “If you don’t know what’s wrong, I’m not going to tell you!” before storming off, leaving a confused lover behind.
But what about those whose partners just disappear without an explanation? The need to know where someone is and why they’ve gone can be so intense that the person who’s left becomes obsessed. We hear in the news of people disappearing and, whilst sympathetic, we quite quickly forget about them and move on. Then, years later, we hear that their families, who’ve never forgotten them, are still searching. While we have been living our lives, those people have had only one goal: find the person who has disappeared.
This is how it is for Hannah, when Matt disappears in my novel Gone Without a Trace. She arrives home to find he’s gone without any explanation. His possessions are gone, and soon she discovers his photos, texts, and emails are missing, too. She has nothing of his, nothing to remind her of him or their relationship except her memories. But how reliable are they?
We all assume we are standing on steady ground. We like to think we know our own history and where we stand with partners and friends. When we recall an event in our past, we’re certain it happened as we remember. When Matt is gone, Hannah feels as though her whole world has been upended. Nothing was at it seemed, and every aspect of her life has to be examined and questioned as she searches for Matt. She remembers the last night they were together, lying in the bath and Matt bringing her a glass of wine and telling her to take it easy. Now with this new reality overlaying that memory, she wonders what was really going on.
Of course, if that memory was false in some way, it’s likely others were, too. But how can she reconcile the life she thought she’d led and the reality exposed by Matt’s disappearance? The cognitive dissonance Hannah experiences as she tries to reconcile the two becomes her driving force.
To stay sane we need to know our own history. Ultimately, all we can rely on is our memories; all we can trust is what we’ve seen and heard and experienced. If those memories are not true, not real, then what do we have?