Monica’s Musings: When the Stars Go Dark

When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

“What is all the suffering for if not so we can see how alike we are, and not alone? Where will the mercy come from, if not from us?”

― Paula McLain, When the Stars Go Dark


Anna, a missing person detective, flees to Mendocino, CA to grieve after tragedy strikes in her personal life. She lived there as a child and felt like it might be the only place left for her. When she arrives, she sees that a teenage girl in the area has gone missing. It reminds Anna of an unsolved murder from her childhood that changed the Mendocino community forever.

She realizes that she was led to this moment. Her expertise has given her insight into how to solve this case. Anna becomes obsessed with the missing girl and goes on a journey of self-reflection. Weaving together actual missing person cases and trauma theory, McLain tells a story of fate, redemption, and what it takes when the worst happens to reclaim our lives.

My thoughts:

While I enjoyed this book, it was terribly sad. Anna has seen more than anyone ever should have to. Her own childhood was traumatic, and her personal growth was painful. She never felt as though she belonged, and when her own family experienced tragedy, she blamed herself and ran. The case of the teenage girl in Mendocino was a distraction for her while she grieved. All of the characters introduced in this story had tremendous baggage. This common factor is what brought them together.

Despite the sadness, the emotions portrayed by each character made it feel relatable. It is a great book to tug at your heart and make you feel exactly what they might be going through. I would recommend reading the author’s note at the end of the book. It gives reasoning for all of the details McLain incorporated into the story.