When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain was an absolutely beautiful book. First of all, the title immediately draws you in. Second, the writing in this book was stunning. The writing was poetic and I kept going back and rereading lines just to appreciate how beautiful the writing was.
This book tells the story of Anna Hart who is a missing persons detective. A terrible tragedy sends Anna back to her hometown so she can try to process and grieve. Shortly after arriving to her hometown she discovers there is a fifteen year old girl missing and Anna quickly joins in on the case. While investigating this crime it starts to remind Anna of one of her friends who went missing years before when they were both fifteen.
I loved this book. I thought the plot was good, Anna was a sympathetic character, plus this book actually dove deeper and used actual missing persons cases and trauma theory as well. The book even touched on what makes some people more susceptible to predators than others. That approach could have easily turned into victim blaming, but it never did, it was done tactfully and I was able to relate to it in some ways and also learn from it as well.
To me, a book isn’t complete unless I am able to take something away from it. Whether that be a lesson, or an understanding of others more, etc. I was able to take a lot from this book and even able to understand my own traumas more.
I highly recommend this book. It was well-written, fast paced, there were a lot of good characters, and it kept me guessing the whole time. In the end I was kind of able to figure it out, but there were still plot twists that I did not see coming and I always appreciate an extra surprise element. Overall, I give this book 5/5 stars. This is a book that I am going to carry with me for a while and I cannot recommend it enough.
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I have been thinking a lot lately about time and how as a society we are always on the go. We hardly ever live in the moment or slow down and take in what is going on right in front of us. There is so much pressure to always be working hard and when you take a break or slow down for a bit I find I feel like a failure in some way because I am not working hard enough or because I need a break. I often find myself rushing from one thing to the next. One morning I was rushing through trying to get my morning started. I had taken out my dog, Ellie, I brought her back in and fed her and my cat, Fiona. I was trying to get my list of things I needed to do that day started, but when I walked by my bedroom I noticed Ellie was sitting on my bed trying her best to look out the window with Fiona. Fiona has no trouble getting up to the windowsill so she can look out the window, but Ellie can’t get up there on her own and she needs me to hold her there so she does not fall off of it (she is quite clumsy and has no spatial awareness). I had things that needed to get done, but watching Ellie sitting on my bed trying to see the little bit that she could through the window made me stop and slow down. I walked in to my room and asked Ellie if she wanted to look out the window. It is one of her favorite things to do and she knows what the question means. Immediately she started wagging her tail and running towards me so I could pick her up and put her up on the windowsill. It had snowed the night before and all Ellie and Fiona wanted to do was stare at the snow lying on the ground and balancing in the trees. I could see the joy radiating out of Ellie and it was coming from such a simple thing. This all made me stop and really appreciate just living in the moment and appreciating the small things. I know this all sounds so cliche, but I could have easily ignored Ellie and kept moving on with my day, but because I stopped and slowed down and gave her that little bit of joy, in turn, I was giving myself a little bit of joy. And time. And forgiveness. We can learn so much from dogs and in this moment I learned so much from Ellie. Sometimes, we need to just slow down and look out the window and find joy in even the tiniest of things.
I picture what could have happened when I told you the truth- my truth; the story that has kept a hold on me for as long as I can remember; I imagined the moment so many times; I wrote a narrative and created a character you would never be able to play; being upset at your reaction-was my fault really; I set you to impossibly high standards; my mind created a version of you that will never exist; when I told you the first time- and you hardly reacted- I should have just left it there; I should have buried the secret back down and never brought it up again; it was my fault really- for thinking you would rally behind me- when you never really cared for my presence in the first place- at one point you did though- which is why I tried to tell you the truth; I honestly thought you forgot I even told you; until one night you bring it up again; once again- it is my fault for feeling hopeful; my heart beating uncontrollably fast when I think you might try to help me; just the thought of you believing me makes the darkness feel less vast; instead- you ask me why I would make up something like that- why I would even say such a thing; I feel the darkness swallow me whole; that night I read a book- the main character tells her truth; everyone she tells believes her; everyone she tells wants to help her; at one point I started crying so hard I could not even see the pages anymore; when I finish the book I throw it against the wall- as the words- why would you make this up- echo throughout my mind; the first time I watched my body being taken I felt like I was not even in the room; afterwards, the pain I felt- felt like it could not possibly be mine; it felt as if it should belong to someone else; I now picture what I wanted to happen when I told you the truth; you listen to every word I say; you ask questions- but do not get angry when I choose not to answer; you tell me you believe me; when I cry- you just let me; you tell me you believe me; it is so good to finally feel at home.
I live in a body that was never really mine; I count backwards from ten- try to find the number that will make all of this mean something; try to find the number that will convince me that all of this is okay; my assault is a story told in three parts; part one- your love is unconditional; you come to save me from the wreckage- you promise me you love me; you promise me you will not hurt me; I believe every word you say- even when I know better; part two- your anger begins to explode into small moments throughout the day; your dislike for me slowly becoming the loudest thing in the room; you tell me you know what is best for me; tell me you are helping me; you tell me I am always wrong- yet you still tell me that you love me; still promise me you will never hurt me; I still believe every word you say; part three- you steal my body from me- claim it as your own; when I feel you inside of me- I have to pretend to just not; I spend hours in the shower scrubbing away your touch; call a rape crisis hotline- hang up on the first ring; call again and again- only to just keep hanging up; I write down all of the reasons it is my fault; I ice the bruises- wash all of the wounds you left behind; try to call the hotline just one more time- but the fear and shame are just too persistent; the walls collapse around me- I see your face every time I close my eyes; there is a forgetfulness that takes over the memories- a wall that closes around my mind; I wish to forget every detail- yet I am fighting to remember any of the details; I call the hotline one last time- when the person on the other end reminds me I am not alone- I want to tell her that that is the problem- instead I just hang up; I check all of the locks three times; I look for the moon through my window- make sure she can see inside; I promise the moon I will make it to the morning; I follow the moon on my drive every morning; I thank her for getting me through another night; before I start my day- I count backwards from ten- try to find the number that will make all of this mean something; try to find the number that will convince me that all of this is okay- learn to accept- that maybe I will never be okay.
I trace the flowers planted out front; breathe in the love you once so seamlessly provided; it was just a spilled glass of water- yet always so much more to you; I return to the site of ache every night my foot touches the doorstep; I open the front door- careful not to keep it open for too long- for fear all of the bones of trauma that live here will tumble out; my body covered by the hands of your shame; I pray to the stars in the night sky- pray one day there will be a way out; behind these walls- only loneliness exists; I drown over and over again in the secrets I keep for you; I feel the ache between my thighs- the only proof I have you were ever here; my rib snaps in half; I offer you a part of it- I give you pieces of me in hopes it will feel less like you are taking all of me; guilt builds a home inside of my body- she invites shame to occupy every space you have not touched; when the blood comes- I will ignore it for as long as possible; the door to your love has been locked for a long time now; I follow the destruction you always leave behind; I carve more pieces out of my body for you; I spend nights scrubbing away your touch; to live in a body that has been raped- is to live with a silent ache only I will ever know is there; some of us can build a house made of stone- turn the trauma into strength; but what are you supposed to do- when the trauma seems to be breaking you- instead of making you stronger; what happens when you cannot build a house out of stone; what happens when you are simply too tired to rebuild what once was; how do you rebuild yourself- when you cannot follow the narrative everyone else has written; my body hollow and bruised; loneliness lives in every corner; I say goodnight- and I try to not mean goodbye; I watch my body being taken from me night after night; day after day; I watch the shame wash over me- she haunts me through every room I enter; my nightmares occupied by your face; I try to scream- but no sound ever seems to come; I cling to the idea that this is all just a dream- but the quiet ache always returns; I am bruised and broken; my soul damaged; I return to the site of ache- breathe in once- quietly push the door open- careful not to keep it open for too long- for fear all of my secrets- your secrets- will tumble out; my body always covered by the hands of your shame; to live in a body that has been raped- is to never fully own your body again.
We live with trust printed on the back of our hearts; drowning in all of your words hoping to believe the truth lies somewhere in them; your words left wounds; the same way your love does; it is not that I do not believe in your love; it is more that I stopped believing you when you told me you loved me; I think about your family often; I wonder if they miss you; or at least miss who you once were; but will never be again; I try to scrub myself clean of the memories of you; try to make all of the parts of me you have touched disappear; when the light comes shining in through my window just right- it almost does look like you love me; I do not know why I want you to love me; it would be much easier if you did not; it would be much easier if I would not let myself drown in all of the lies you cover me in; it is not that it always feels so impossible to fully love you; it is more that it feels like you want me to love you more than anything; yet you never want to reciprocate any of this love; I drag your love onto the grave site that sits on my heart; I worship the ghosts of the love that you were at one time able to provide; I wish over and over that you will one day turn back into the person you once were; I still drown in all of your words while I tirelessly search for the truth; believing it has to be hidden somewhere in there; no matter how far it is hidden- there are so many days where I am still determined to find it; determined to turn the wounds your love leaves back into anything else; I still look for the light to shine through just right- to prove the person you once were- still exists somewhere; even if it is hard to find.
This sadness is the gospel I worship every night; thoughts of ending it all race through my mind- more often than I would ever care to admit; I know too many people believe I choose this; there are so many days where I question whether or not I am making it all up; I worry what if I do like the suffering; maybe all of this suffering is what makes me interesting; I wonder what I would be without this sadness; what would happen if the trauma were to disappear; there are different things that make us whole; so many parts that make up who we are; what are you supposed to do when the parts of you that scare everyone else- make up most of who you are; I do not know who I would be without the skeletons of my trauma following me into every room I enter; the brokenness builds a home out of me; making me whole in a way others will never understand; when you have been broken for so long- sometimes it feels as if there is no other way too be; I am saying all of this to tell you- I am sorry if all of this is too much for you; I am sorry if my sadness makes you uncomfortable; I am working on building homes out of the happy moments; but it will take some time; the body has to build a tolerance to everything; and for now- my body is trying to figure out how to hold happiness.
Sometimes I feel the more I think about it the more control he has over me; if I pretend it never happened- maybe I can convince myself it never actually happened; no matter what the scars on my soul tell me; no matter how many nightmares I have; if you keep hiding from the truth- you might be able to convince yourself of anything; I convince myself that something else happened that night- anything else happened that night; except convincing yourself never really works- but what is the harm in pretending; what is the harm in ripping the truth out of yourself and throwing it into the ocean; hoping with each wave the truth of what happened will drown a little bit more; my truths cover the entire ocean floor now; when you swim in the ocean- be careful not to cut yourself on the shards of my secrets.
When I was 8 years old every girl in my class had a crush on a boy named Timmy; of course I said I did too- because the way they talked about him made it seem like he placed all the stars in the night sky; made it seem like if I did not like him- there was something wrong with me; I stared at him everyday of second grade trying to figure out why I could not see it; trying to figure out why I could not feel what every other girl so easily felt; that was the year I realized I was different; people do not always like different; from that year on I have buried myself so far into the closet there are days where sometimes I have to make sure that the door is still able to open; I have hidden this secret in the dark house of my bones and have let the shame of it nearly kill me; there are so many days I promise myself I will take this secret to the grave with me; from that year on I have become a girl who is made up of apologies; this closet keeps getting darker and darker; I cannot quite decide if I am more terrified of the dark; or the guilt and shame that always seem to come with it.
In another world- I think maybe this all would have made sense; in another world- I may have been strong enough to actually leave; I stand at the casket of your love- your love that never really existed- but I convinced myself it did anyway; your love that is now just bone ground into dust; I convince myself of a lot of things when I am with you; I will turn into whatever you want me to be- which I know is sometimes the problem; my sexual orientation is still the loudest thing in the room whenever I am with you; to you I represent all of the sins of the land; to love the way I do- is to throw flames into an already burning fire; I know you see this love as a sacrifice; you see me as the greatest burden to enter every room; I watch you fall; I watch the whole world collapse around us; yet I still do not know how to leave; I know there is another world- in which I am unfazed by the fact that you do not love me back; there is another world where you tell me you may never love me- I learn to not hope for anything different; I learn to not chase something that does not exist in the first place; the thing I am learning about this love- is there is always a wrong way to be something; there is always a wrong way to live; in this world- I spend no more time convincing you to love me; I take the time you have granted me and put the hours back into myself; I take the hours and build a home out of what I love; without you in my life- I have so much time; and so many glorious things to fill it with.
Every morning the bright yellow ball caresses the earth- demanding everyone to be aware of its existence; always rising in the east and setting in the west- its presence will forever be counted on; but- with light- always follows darkness; when the light begins to fade- the darkness will shortly follow; this darkness creeps in ever so slightly; until- all in an instant there is nothing but blackness surrounding you; but- when the light fades to dark- there is one thing you can always count on; the magnificent ball of light will always rise again; and the beauty it beholds will take everyone’s breath away all over again.
She felt like a flower wilted and alone- the way he undressed her with a single look; she felt like a flower- one that had been picked and left to die- he knew all of her insecurities and made sure to make them visible to every eye; she felt like a flower- but not the kind that everyone loves- he made her unlovable- yet she lusted after him even so; she felt like a flower- but not like a rose whose beauty is always alluring- he has taken all of her beauty as he touches her without care; she felt like a flower- whose petals have been ripped off one by one- he has taken every piece of her; including her soul; she felt like a flower- yet not so much anymore- he has taken the garden inside of her; leaving her vacant- with nothing but shattered petals- surrounding her whole.