We All Have So Many Secrets to Keep (We Are All the Same in the Dark psychological thriller REVIEW)

You know those rare moments, when everything is so absolutely perfect—so utterly right—that you wouldn’t change one solitary thing?

That, for me, is literally every single page of Julia Heaberlin’s We Are All the Same in the Dark… and no matter what I else I read this year, this is gonna be my favorite book of 2020, without question.


A trucker spies something near the edge of the road on one of those endless stretches of you-can’t-see-anything-for-way-too-many-miles flat Texas highway. The man, Wyatt, thinks it could be a dog, and he likes dogs, so he stops to check. Instead, it turns out to be an injured young girl, barely a teen—bruised, bloodied, and missing an eye—lying in the parched grass, a ring of dandelions circling her. Seeing as how he’s always taken dandelions as a sign—and heaven knows you don’t leave a wounded creature out in that kind of brutal heat, anyhow—Wyatt grudgingly puts her in the truck with him, and heads for home.

The same evening, a police officer—Odette Tucker—stops by to do a wellness check… on her old friend, Wyatt Branson. (It’s the tenth anniversary of his elder sister Trumanell going missing, something which Wyatt—along with the rest of the town—hasn’t exactly come to grips with, yet.) What Odette finds in the old Branson homestead, though—a strange girl, in dreadful shape, who refuses to speak—is somehow more troubling than even she was expecting. 

Knowing full well that the townsfolk—many of whom are still convinced that Wyatt killed his sister and buried her body somewhere (despite the police having cleared him, years ago)—would view the girl’s presence as further evidence of his “guilty ways”, Odette takes the silent teen with her, stowing her at a sort of secret way station for runaways. Until the girl feels safe enough to tell her story, so that Odette can help, she needs to be protected.

But helping her is only part of what’s on Odette’s plate. That fateful night when Trumanell went missing, ten years before, was the same night that caused a teenage Odette to decide to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a police officer, a few short years later…vowing to someday solve the mystery of Trumanell’s disappearance (and hopefully to ease some of Wyatt’s agony).

Odette has no idea how very much someone is determined to keep the truth of Trumanell’s whereabouts a secret, though… nor of how far they’re willing to go to ensure ancient history stays buried and forgotten.


If We Are All the Same in the Dark were merely that story, the one I’ve just laid out, it would be a good—albeit fairly standard—one. The thing is, it isn’t only that story… but I can’t tell you any more; you have to read it for yourself, to get there.

I could go on and on about how cleverly Heaberlin structured her story (it’s ingenious), how spot-on her characterizations are (I feel like at some point I’ve met everyone in this book), or how brilliantly she jacks up the tension and suspense… but again, such could also be said about plenty of other worthy thrillers.

What I will say is this: the real magic of We Are All the Same in the Dark is in the nuances… in the sheer perfection of Heaberlin’s prose; in the all-enveloping sense of time and place; in the aching poignancy of memories; in the subtleties of friendship, love, and everything in between; and in the devastating heartbreak of realizations. 

We Are All the Same in the Dark is full of such incredible beauty, and of so much heart-wrenching pain, that it's a bit like gazing in rapturous wonder at a crazy, green-tinged sky... then reeling when the tornado hits. Like all such experiences, this one will stay with me for a long time.


[I received an advance digital copy from the publisher in order to give my review; this book is scheduled for release 4 August 2020.]


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