When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica | Book review

when the lights go out mary kubica book review
when the lights go out mary kubicaWhen the Lights Go Out

Author: Mary Kubica

Publisher: Park Row

Release date: September 4th, 2018

Pages: 336

Genre: Thriller, Suspense

Rating: ★★★★☆

Author’s website | Buy on Amazon

A woman is forced to question her own identity in this riveting and emotionally charged thriller by the blockbuster bestselling author of The Good Girl, Mary Kubica

Jessie Sloane is on the path to rebuilding her life after years of caring for her ailing mother. She rents a new apartment and applies for college. But when the college informs her that her social security number has raised a red flag, Jessie discovers a shocking detail that causes her to doubt everything she’s ever known.

Finding herself suddenly at the center of a bizarre mystery, Jessie tumbles down a rabbit hole, which is only exacerbated by grief and a relentless lack of sleep. As days pass and the insomnia worsens, it plays with Jessie’s mind. Her judgment is blurred, her thoughts are hampered by fatigue. Jessie begins to see things until she can no longer tell the difference between what’s real and what she’s only imagined.

Meanwhile, twenty years earlier and two hundred and fifty miles away, another woman’s split-second decision may hold the key to Jessie’s secret past. Has Jessie’s whole life been a lie or have her delusions gotten the best of her?

Why did I choose to read When the Lights Go Out?

I have actually read all of the author’s other books and I loved them. I found out about this book being released this month when I was doing some research for another blog post (Check it out here, The most anticipated books of Fall 2018). I immediately pre-ordered it, and, voilà!

While we’re there, if you enjoyed this book, I would recommend Don’t You Cry, my favorite book by Mary Kubica.

What’s it about?

Jessie can’t sleep. At the beginning of When the Lights Go Out, she loses her mother to cancer and is devastated. Learning to live on her own and trying to build a new life for herself, she is unable to enjoy a good night’s sleep. Especially after she learns a shocking detail about herself: her social security number is not valid. Which means, she soon finds out, it’s that of a dead person.

The further she digs, the less she understands. What does this mean? What did her mother omit to tell her? As the search for answers goes on, so do the sleepless nights…

Lasting sleep deprivation can cause paranoia, impulsive behavior, depression and… hallucinations. Soon, Jessie can’t tell what’s real and what’s not. Will she find the answers she is looking for, before her lights go out?

What did I think of When the Lights Go Out?

This novel managed to surprise me, which I loved. I knew when I bought this book, from my experience with Mrs. Kubica’s other books, that I would not easily figure out the ending. I was not disappointed.

The story is actually told from two different point of views: Jessie’s and Eden’s, who is, we eventually find out, Jessie’s mother. Jessie’s chapters take place in the “present”, as she picks up the pieces of her life after her mother’s death and tries to find the missing pieces. Eden’s story takes place in the past, sometimes when she was much younger and before she was a mother to Jessie, and other times, when Jessie was a child. Eden’s story is about her struggle at getting pregnant and how she would do anything to become a mother.

I enjoyed the switch between the two narrators, I wanted to read it as fast as I could, and I couldn’t wait to know more about the other narrator’s story. It felt fast-paced but still mysterious and kept me hooked all the way till the end. It was clear too when the narrators changed, thanks to the chapter’s title and in certain cases, a change of font.

Jessie’s hallucinations play a big role in keeping the reader confused and exasperated (in a good way!). It becomes hard to tell what’s real and what’s not, as much for the reader as it is for Jessie.

However, I did sometimes find it more difficult to be sympathetic to Jessie, as I have no experience with insomnia myself (I could fall asleep nearly anywhere). My brain just can’t seem to fathom the possibility of not having slept for a long time.

Eden’s marital problems, her struggle with becoming pregnant and her longing of other people’s children is heart-wrenching. Her descent toward the inevitable ending was well-paved, and though I don’t endorse her actions, I manage to feel some empathy toward her.

My rating system doesn’t have half-stars, but I would give this book four and a half stars: it really was a nearly perfect read.

I would recommend this book, and Mrs. Kubica’s other novels, to anyone who enjoys a good suspense/thriller novel, with switches between the narrators, which keeps the story fast-paced and interesting.

This book was in my article: The most anticipated books of Fall 2018. Check it out for more great read ideas, being released this autumn!

Until next time!


Interested by this book? Buy it here.


  1. Zelda Smit says:

    I look forward to reading this, thanks for the review!

  2. Kristen says:

    I love books that one can’t put down…always the sign of a good read when you can’t wait to see what happens. Insomnia is no fun…something that has started to bother me in recent years.

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