GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke is a fascinating and deeply moving psychological thriller.
Natalie wakes alone on a beach in Mexico, with no memory of what happened the night before or how she ended up there, and soon learns that her best friend Ashley is missing. Moving back and forth in time and told from alternating viewpoints, the story spins off chillingly from there.
As events are reconstructed, we learn that Ashley, co-founder of a highly successful beauty products company, invited her partner/best friend Natalie and another mutual friend Lauren on an all-expenses-paid vacation in the Yucatán Peninsula.
For Ashley, the purpose of the trip is to re-bond with her friends, who have become somewhat estranged from her, and to achieve clarity about her own life. But as they bicycle around, do yoga, eat out, and visit the tourist attractions in Tulum and Chichén Itzá, things don’t turn out the way Ashley had hoped.
She and Lauren are still not willing to forgive each other for the cruel words they exchanged a year ago at the funeral of Lauren’s husband. And Natalie is fighting with her over a recent offer from Revlon to buy their company – with Natalie desperately wanting to cash out, and Ashley holding on for dear life.
The situation grows even tenser when Ashley meets a hot-looking local named Marco and starts hanging out with him. With dizzying speed he becomes her confidante, tourist guide, spiritual advisor, and potential boyfriend (despite the fact that Ashley’s married) all wrapped up into one. While both Natalie and Lauren mistrust Marco and resent him for intruding into their circle of friendship.
To complicate things further, the women are dealing with identity crises, marital loss and discord, and pending financial disaster. Hardly a bedrock for a fun, relaxing vacation.
Then as emotions reach their boiling point and the bonds of friendship are stretched to their limits, the threesome’s highly anticipated girls’ night out turns tragic…
This is a stunning novel. The characters are richly developed, their interactions real and believable – and often cringe-worthy. The Mayan history and culture provide an eerie, chilling backdrop. The mosaic of past and present, differing points of view, and memories lost and resurrected is handled ingeniously. And the poignant revelations about friendship and irrevocable life choices are both gut-churning and heart-wrenching.
Solidly entertaining, but GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT speaks to the psyche and soul as well. Highly recommended.
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