Review: The Girl in the Maze by Cathy Hayward

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.

Publisher: Agora Books
Published: October 2021
Pages: 304


Emma Bowen has never had a close relationship with her mother, barely speaking with her in the last years of her life. But after her mother’s death, Emma finds something that might just explain the distance between them.

Discovering letters between her mother and grandmother, it seems to Emma that her mother has always been difficult.

As she searches for answers about her own childhood, Emma is drawn into the mystery of her mother’s enigmatic life. The more she finds, the more lost she feels, but Emma is determined to uncover her mother’s past, and the secrets held within it, whatever the cost.

An enthralling story of three women, generations apart, linked by one terrible tragedy.

My Thoughts…

Emma and her mother had never been close, to the point that they barely spoke to each other for years. So, after her mother’s death, Emma is surprised to discover that there may have been more to her mother’s life than she could have ever guessed. Emma is desperate for answers but it may be too late to learn the secrets Margaret hid so carefully. And if she can uncover them, would they be worth the cost?

The Girl in the Maze is at the same time a beautiful and heartbreaking story of the complicated and sometimes very difficult family relationships and the importance of connecting with one another before it’s too late. I love intergenerational tales, especially where family secrets are concerned, so this was exactly my kind of book. The multiple POVs and parallel time settings really helped to bring these characters to life, as the events that led them to where they are slowly unfold before our eyes. The author’s writing is beautiful and works perfectly for this story!

This was a very hard-hitting book at times, so be very mindful going in this if that might be triggering for you as it got very difficult to read at times (content warnings below as usual). I had to put the book down a few times, even in the middle of a chapter, because I just couldn’t read any more in the same go and this doesn’t happen often to me. The book opening itself was very strong, and I was thrown a bit off balance even though I’d read the publisher’s trigger warnings on the book’s NetGalley page beforehand.

So many themes are tackled in this book and they’re all connected to each other so it’s hard to go into any of them without risking spoilers, but I’ll say that while I really appreciated the tact with which some were handled, I found it harder with others. The characters were also a bit hit-and-miss for me, as sometimes they seemed to be really well fleshed out while at other times they felt a bit flat. I was also confused by some characters’ choices, even when taking their trauma into account, and deeply disliked the portrayal of others. I also had trouble staying fully immersed in the story, as a few times I felt we were just going round in circles, waiting for the next big shocking reveal to come around.

Overall, The Girl in the Maze is a beautifully written tale of mothers and daughters yet, for me, it was missing something in the pacing and the character departments to make it a truly excellent one.

CONTENT WARNINGS This book contains graphic descriptions of abortion, child sexual abuse, rape, miscarriage and mentions of grief and infertility.

Rating: 3.5/5

2 thoughts on “Review: The Girl in the Maze by Cathy Hayward”

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