The title of “When the Lights Go Out” is ironic because the lights never go out for the main character of this book. In fact, Jessie Sloan hasn’t slept for 10 days. She knows that 11 days is the longest a person can go without sleep before he or she dies.
Jessie’s insomnia takes hold as she sits vigil at her mother’s deathbed, a woman dying from the cancer that has plagued her since Jessie was in high school.
Jessie leaves her post by her mother only briefly for coffee and a sandwich. On a coffee/food run, she encounters a young man also keeping watch over his older brother as he dies from a motorcycle accident. She discovers their common bond, one that excludes most others.
As Jesse’s mother slowly expires, Jesse is made acutely aware that her mother has no family, that she’s never revealed the identity of Jessie’s father, that there are, in fact, no pictures of her younger than the age of three, and that she has never been able to locate her Social Security information.
She remembers when her mother did relent and buy a computer, when Jessie was in middle school. But after Jessie showed her mother a search could be done to gain information on someone simply by entering the person’s name, her mother took the computer back under the pretense that it was broken.
Her mother was a housecleaner and took Jessie with her on her jobs when Jessie was not in school. Once Jessie looked up her own name and discovered that a 3-year-old had died in a hit-and-run, a girl who shared the same name.
This information leads Jessie to believe that she may have been kidnapped. A twist in the story reveals the identity of her mother’s former husband, but not that of her father. Jessie’s fears and thoughts bear fruit as she fights the confusion and a hallucination that occurs as part of her terrible insomnia.
Fans of mystery and suspense will enjoy this book by Mary Kubica, her fifth. I read and thoroughly enjoyed her book “Pretty Baby.” It also involves a child and a mother with an unidentifiable history, and is suspenseful and mysterious. I look forward to reading a best seller by Kubica called “The Good Girl.” I am curious if the theme of the book will be the same as the two I have read by this author.