When Alice Salmon dies, the news of her death explodes all over social media, with family, friends, acquaintances and attention seekers providing theories for her cause of death and sharing memories of her life.
As a way to process his grief, Professor Cooke sets about creating a compilation of diary entries, emails, letters and messages, anything and everything he can find that gives Alice a voice. As he brings these documents together, he paints a picture of a young woman struggling with balancing what is expected and wanted from her with what she wants from herself, and trying to find a happy and satisfactory middle ground.
What She Left is an imaginatively crafted thriller that with each document uncovers a new nuance and insight into the characters and their connection to Alice. These characters, which also include Alice’s mother Elizabeth, her friend Meagan and boyfriend Luke, were not very likable, and were in fact quite creepy and disturbing, making this at times an uncomfortable read.
I found it tedious at times, the format requiring patience from the reader, but am happy to have stuck with it to the end. What She Left is a fascinating look into the power of social media and the ability it has to shape the impressions we develop about people and events that affect us. To enhance the reading experience of What She Left, check out http://professorcooke.tumblr.com/, where the world of Alice Salmon actually comes to life. It’s really amazing to see how much of our daily lives are put on display (voluntarily or not) everyday on various social media outlets.
I give What She Left 3/5 stars.
Thank you to Goodreads First Reads and Michael Joseph (Penguin Random House UK) for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.