STARRED REVIEW
June 23, 2020

The Girl from Widow Hills

By Megan Miranda
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At just 6 years old, Arden Maynor was outside sleepwalking when a flash flood swept her away. Residents of her small Kentucky town searched for days, her mother made on-camera pleas and the national media broadcast it all. The country breathed a sigh of relief when Arden was found—and on every anniversary of that day, the media spotlight found her and her mother over and over again. The relentless attention made Arden feel hunted, “like nothing more than a character brought to life by my mother’s book.”

And so, in Megan Miranda’s The Girl from Widow Hills, we get to know the Arden of 20 years later: now 26, she goes by Olivia Wells and lives in North Carolina, where she has a job she loves. She’s finally beginning to feel secure in her life’s rhythms, even forging new friendships—but then, one horrible night, she sleepwalks outside and awakens with a bloodied body at her feet. Is the looming 20th anniversary stirring up tamped-down trauma? Or is someone from the past trying to torment her anew?

Newspaper articles, transcripts, book excerpts and other artifacts paint a fuller picture of the rescue and its aftermath, including conspiracy theories and bizarre expectations from those obsessed with the little girl. Step by suspenseful step, Miranda lays a path for readers to follow as Olivia tries to separate dreams and reality, fear and fact—with a tenacious local detective not far behind.

The Girl from Widow Hills is a creepy, compelling portrait of a life forever warped by unwanted fame, a timely theme in this era of internet celebrity and the fall from grace that often follows. (There are strong echoes of the real life 1987 “Baby Jessica” media explosion, too, wherein a toddler fell deep into a Texas well and the nation breathlessly tuned in to CNN’s live broadcast of the tension-filled, successful rescue effort.) It’s a shivery kind of fun to wonder along with Olivia whether those close to her should be trusted or feared, and to urge her on as she races to unravel the past without unraveling her sanity. She may have been rescued all those years ago, but now, only she can save herself.

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The Girl From Widow Hills

The Girl From Widow Hills

By Megan Miranda
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781501165429

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