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Gone Tonight by Sarah Pekkanen

Thriller

Gone Tonight

by Sarah Pekkanen

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Quick take

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis leads to the thrilling unraveling of a mother-daughter relationship as secrets seep out.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Psychological

    Psychological

  • Illustrated icon, Multiple_Viewpoints

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Puzzle

    Puzzle

  • Illustrated icon, Unreliable_Narrator

    Unreliable narrator

Synopsis

Catherine Sterling thinks she knows her mother. Ruth Sterling is quiet, hardworking, and lives for her daughter. All her life, it’s been just the two of them against the world. But now, Catherine is ready to spread her wings, move from home, and begin a new career. And Ruth Sterling will do anything to prevent that from happening.

Ruth Sterling thinks she knows her daughter. Catherine would never rebel, would never question anything about her mother’s past or background. But when Ruth’s desperate quest to keep her daughter by her side begins to reveal cracks in Ruth’s carefully-constructed world, both mother and daughter begin a dance of deception.

Content warning

This book contains mentions of sexual assault.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Gone Tonight.

Gone Tonight

CHAPTER ONE

CATHERINE

My mother walks through our tiny living room, her eyes sweeping over our old blue couch and coffee table, before she briefly disappears into the galley kitchen.

“I just had them in my hand.” Her voice is tinged with something darker than frustration as she begins another lap.

I should jump up from the couch and help her look for her keys so she isn’t late for her shift at the diner.

But I don’t want her to notice I’ve begun to tremble.

“Check your purse again?” I suggest.

She frowns and reaches into her shoulder bag.

My mother is organized. Methodical. Detail oriented. Her purse isn’t a jumble of crumpled receipts and loose change. Sunglasses in a case, small bills facing the same way in her wallet, cherry ChapStick and hand lotion zipped into her makeup bag—it’s containers within a container.

She shakes her head and walks to the raincoat hanging on a hook by our front door, searching through its pockets.

Maybe her father is absentminded. Perhaps her cousins grew distracted when they approached middle age. It could be something our relatives tease each other about when they gather for holidays.

I don’t know. I’ve never met them.

When I had to create a family tree in the fourth grade, I was able to fill out only two names on a single branch. My mother’s and mine.

My stomach tightens as I watch her bend down and check around the mat by the front door where we put our shoes. She looks even thinner than usual in her uniform of black slacks and matching polo shirt with a red waitressing apron tied around her waist.

She hasn’t been able to eat for the past few days. At night I hear her restless movements through the thin wall that separates our bedrooms.

Tomorrow she has an appointment with a neurologist.

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Why I love it

Sarah Pekkanen’s work has always gripped me. As half of the duo that brought us The Golden Couple and many more, I’m no stranger to how her words find their way under your skin and haunt you long into the night, asking you to confront disquieting truths about the kinds of relationships closest to you. Gone Tonight, Sarah’s latest solo work, is no exception.

At the start, we are introduced to Ruth Sterling and her daughter Catherine: the idyllic mother-daughter pair. Ruth would do anything for her loyal daughter and Catherine is fiercely protective of her dedicated mother. But as Catherine’s career as a senior care nurse begins to accelerate and she prepares to finally leave the nest, Ruth’s grip on her daughter tightens—she just can’t bear to see her daughter leave her side so soon. As Ruth develops increasingly concerning tendencies, Catherine puts all she can into finding out what’s gone wrong, insisting it’s for the good of her mother. Quickly, the perfectly constructed life they once shared unravels into a game of deception and conceit, with Catherine determined to get to the bottom of it.

From the very first page, Gone Tonight is a fast-paced and unsettling peek into the psyche of a mother-daughter relationship where all is not as it seems. Sarah Pekkanen’s skill for writing a story that remains glued in your hands until you turn the very last page is on full display in this psychological thriller—it might just have you reconsider what you think you know about your own family.

Member ratings (3,379)

  • Carey O.

    Lodi, OH

    This book was fast-paced as we piece together three mystery of Ruth’s past. Parents will do anything to keep their children safe. But there will always be someone who is one step ahead. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Erin W.

    Sparta, WI

    Loved it…except the drawn out narration of mundane activities to lengthen chapters. “I pulled a mug out, I turned the pot on, I added coffee”… completely unnecessary and probably added 100 pages.

  • Christal D.

    Marysville, WA

    I knew I’d like this book. But I couldn’t put it down. The true visceral love of a mother risking it all to protect her daughter had me needing to know how it ended and still questioning to the end.

  • David T.

    Ephrata, PA

    Imagine running from your past and then having it continue to catch up with you as you try to keep your daughter safe. In the end, the truth is revealed and there is some closure, but you can’t rest.

  • Taylor K.

    Clarksville, TN

    Loved this solo adventure from Pekkanen! I loved the two points of view and development of the twists. Once I hit the release, I couldn’t put it down! Loved seeing the little bit of evil in everyone.

Thriller
First Lie Wins
No One Can Know
Listen for the Lie
A Talent for Murder
One Perfect Couple
Darling Girls
Kill for Me, Kill for You
Murder Road
Daughter of Mine
The Fury
Only if You’re Lucky
The Other Mothers
The Resort
When I’m Dead
The Soulmate
What Lies in the Woods
She Started It
The Only One Left
Dark Corners
Blacktop Wasteland
All the Dangerous Things
The Only Survivors
The Broken Girls
The Family Game
The Push
We Were Never Here
Things We Do in the Dark
The Golden Couple
The Collective
The Stranger Upstairs
Gone Tonight
Too Good to Be True
The Last Word
You Are Not Alone
Rock Paper Scissors
Not a Happy Family
A Flicker in the Dark
The Last Flight
Reckless Girls
The House Across the Lake
The Wife Upstairs
The Last Thing He Told Me
The Maidens
Everything We Didn't Say
Invisible Girl
The Paris Apartment
You're Invited
The Last Party
Dark Places
Pieces of Her
The Wife Between Us
Sharp Objects
None of This Is True
The Silent Patient
The Winter Sister
The Other Woman
Necessary People
The Family Upstairs
The Night Swim
Girl A
The Hunting Wives
Just Another Missing Person
First Born
The Lies I Tell
Breathless
Thriller
View all
First Lie Wins
No One Can Know
Listen for the Lie
A Talent for Murder
One Perfect Couple
Darling Girls
Kill for Me, Kill for You
Murder Road
Daughter of Mine
The Fury
Only if You’re Lucky
The Other Mothers
The Resort
When I’m Dead
The Soulmate
What Lies in the Woods
She Started It
The Only One Left
Dark Corners
Blacktop Wasteland
All the Dangerous Things
The Only Survivors
The Broken Girls
The Family Game
The Push
We Were Never Here
Things We Do in the Dark
The Golden Couple
The Collective
The Stranger Upstairs
Gone Tonight
Too Good to Be True
The Last Word
You Are Not Alone
Rock Paper Scissors
Not a Happy Family
A Flicker in the Dark
The Last Flight
Reckless Girls
The House Across the Lake
The Wife Upstairs
The Last Thing He Told Me
The Maidens
Everything We Didn't Say
Invisible Girl
The Paris Apartment
You're Invited
The Last Party
Dark Places
Pieces of Her
The Wife Between Us
Sharp Objects
None of This Is True
The Silent Patient
The Winter Sister
The Other Woman
Necessary People
The Family Upstairs
The Night Swim
Girl A
The Hunting Wives
Just Another Missing Person
First Born
The Lies I Tell
Breathless