This is the best book I’ve read all summer. Weaver is a great writer and can reveal twists and build suspense in a way that is fresh, but recognizable. Reviewing the book based on female representations, though, points to where he needs a little work.
Now I was on the brink of returning to my old life, to the world of the lost. Somehow I expected to feel conflicted about it; instead all I felt was a subtle, magnetic pull.
David Raker is a missing persons investigator who has been on sabbatical in his family home in Devon, England after nearly dying on his last case. He’s still not sure he’s ready to get back into the game when an old girlfriend asks him to find her sister’s family — husband, wife, and two daughters — who simply vanished from their home.
Main Female ♀ Characters
Having an equal number of male and female characters in a story is not what defines equality for the sexes. Such a simplistic measure would kill the creative process of storytelling (e.g. “Stand By Me” and “Little Women”). Representation is defined by the creator’s world and the audience’s reaction to the world* which is much more complicated than counting characters.
In a story that spans several decades and two continents, and weaves an intricate and page-turning mystery like Never Coming Back, there have to be characters that simply and effectively move that story along. The majority of the main characters in Never Coming Back are men. It is a story of men set on protecting their crimes so they can have an elitist life style. There are almost two dozen men and women in the story whose purpose is to move the plot along for the main characters.
Of the two women I consider main characters, Weaver held back or missed defining their agency, which could have resulted in an even more intense ending to the story.
Carrie Ling is the missing mother, wife, and student in the story. To figure out why the family has gone missing, Raker learns about Carrie in flashbacks and recollections by other characters. For a writer, this is a difficult way to develop a character, but what we do learn gives you a great deal of respect for her and a desire to know more. Weaver has to handle Carrie delicately but I think giving her more would have significantly punched up some of the reveals.
Emily Kane is Raker’s hometown girlfriend from his teens. Her main role is to tell Raker the details behind the disappearance of her sister’s family and give him a new purpose. She’s timid, shy, and needy. Without Raker she has no other meaning. Every time we meet Emily, she is sitting around waiting for Raker. Again, I think a little more work on Emily would have only made the reveals even better.
I look forward to reading more Weaver novels in the future and shiver at the possibilities if he ever gives those female characters more of his attention.
I’ll Give You a Topic
Carrie and Emily could represent the two sides of Raker himself, which is interesting considering they are both women. (Talk amongst yourselves.)
* For now, let’s assume the audience is not a bunch of easily offended trolls just like we assume a creator is not a misogynist.