The Things We Never Said begins with Maggie waking up in a mental hospital in the 1960s unable to remember who she is or how on earth she got there. She gradually acquaints herself with her fellow patients and the staff ‘caring’ for them, having to learn (or is it relearn?) the rules and etiquette as she tries to recover her past. It’s a great premise to launch the story from, and the bygone era of chilly mental institutions and electroshock treatment (that seems to be used as punishment rather than therapy) are absorbing and scarily plausible.
The themes in The Things We Never Said are treated knowledgeably, but gently, and I was swept along by Elliot Wright’s assured storytelling. An ideal choice for readers of genealogy mysteries.
The audacity of the premise -- dead dad is back, even if only as a machine, and only for the week -- is intriguing enough, but Levy does far too little with any aspect of it (indeed, even -- or especially: 'all those things we never said' remain largely unsaid even with this opportunity). The manipulations of the controlling father (Julia complains about him earlier in her life: "you were far too present. Just not in person"), and Julia's unwillingness to communicate in any meaningful way with those she is supposedly closest to (the various men in her life) also makes for two rather unsympathetic characters, in whose fates (inevitable as they are, in any case ...) the reader isn't deeply invested.