Review: The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

Review: The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
on January 26th 2016
Pages: 304

All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It's the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when she was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as troubled waters.

When Imogene is seventeen, her father, now a famous author of medical mysteries, strikes out in the middle of the night and doesn't come back. Neither Imogene's stepmother nor the police know where he could've gone, but Imogene is convinced he's looking for her mother. She decides to put to use the skills she's gleaned from a lifetime of her father's books to track down a woman she's never known, in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she's carried with her for her entire life.

Rebecca Podos' debut is a powerful, affecting story of the pieces of ourselves that remain mysteries even to us - the desperate search through empty spaces for something to hold on to.


Note to self: Don’t not post a review in two weeks and then remember to know how when you decide to do it again. Because you don’t. You’re old, and sometimes old people forget things when they don’t use them. Like algebra, perhaps. I don’t remember much of that. See what I mean? This review of a book that has nothing to do with algebra or the fake elderly has turned into something else entirely.

What is the book about then? Imogene, namely. Imogene and the fact that her dad has left home with no indication of where he is going, when he’ll be back, or if she and her stepmom should be worried sick, which of course, they are. Her stepmom calls the police because she is normal, but Imogene thinks that she will know better where her father is- and suspects it has something to do with her birth mother and the mysterious circumstances that her legacy has been shrouded in.

Let us begin with the stuff that was really great about the book.

  • First, and foremost, family. This book was so, so much about families and both the love that brings them together and the ugliness that can tear them apart. It’s clear that these people, no matter how flawed, care for each other. Imogene’s stepmom is awesome. She is not in any way made out to be an “evil stepmother”- she’s just a nice, normal lady who wants her family back together. And she’s both kind and firm to Imogene, not that the firmness actually deters Imogene from doing anything, but the point is, she tries.

    “She said I was a ‘partner in the family’, and never treated me like a pain, or the price of marrying Dad, or some pathetic little half orphan.”

    And despite all this nonsense with Imogene’s mom, her stepmom is definitely in it for the long haul. I approve.

  • Friendship is also big. Jessa is Immy’s best friend, and Jessa puts up with a lot of undeserved crap from Immy, because she is just a quality friend, and knows that  Imogene is going through a really tough time. And when Jessa can’t help out, she enlists her brother Chad, even though she knows that Imogene has had some feelings for Chad. And then he steps up to the plate to help out. Clearly, they are pretty decent human beings.
  • Despite Imogene’s flaws, or maybe because they were similar to a lot of my own flaws, I related to her. She was so insecure of some things, yet so confident about others. She definitely took her stress out on people who didn’t always deserve it, but I think that is a flaw that most of us can openly admit to. And she is stubborn as hell when she thinks she’s right, and I have some experience in that particular arena 😉
  • I felt like a lot of the “life lesson” stuff was really on point. No one was perfect, and everyone was just trying their best. And the revelations that came to pass during the book especially highlighted that point.
  • The writing was quite good, and I was definitely curious as to what would happen next. I didn’t feel bored, and I was genuinely curious about the situation with Imogene’s family.

So, of course, there has to be stuff that wasn’t really my favorite. 

  • Some of the events that happened were a bit… farfetched.  I suppose plausible, but not likely. Especially for so many unlikely events. I guess I could have given a pass to one or two, but damn, this girl had incredible luck on her side.
  • There are some mental health bits in here that I didn’t love the handling of. Again, I am not saying that any of it was outlandishly impossible, it’s just that Lindy, the stepmom, was a therapist, and yet she didn’t seem to take any family member’s mental health into consideration. It just felt… weird. And it also felt a little glazed over in general.
  • Despite the positives that I found while reading the story, I think the main reason I had trouble with the book is that I felt underwhelmed– especially toward the end. When I expected things to pick up and get extra intense, they simply… didn’t. And while I never like to tell any specifics about the end of a book, I just felt a bit let down, like I wanted more. And unfortunately, it made the book in general feel quite anticlimactic.

Bottom Line: The writing was solid, and I think this author absolutely has a ton of potential. This wasn’t a bad book by any means- in fact, there is a lot I enjoyed about it. Perhaps it was even my expectations of the end being more epic that got the best of me. But I can’t deny that I felt disappointment when I was finished, so take that for what it’s worth. Still, worth a read for the character/family development alone.


Have you guys read any books yet in 2016? Let me know what they were, I am curious about your first books of the year! 

Posted January 4, 2016 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Review / 30 Comments


30 responses to “Review: The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

  1. YES GOOD STEPMUMS FOR A WIN. I just kind of intensely hate it when stepparents are cruel for no apparent reason. I mean, a little resentment, maybe. But not MWAHAHA I AM EVIL NOW GO TO THE ATTIC AND MAKE ME A SANDWICH evil. Although I’m really one for more plotty books, so maybe this one isn’t for me. Thanks for the review, Shannon!

  2. oH I KINDA WANT TO READ THIS. Mostly because…idek. I love the title. Yes I am just that shallow. *clears throat awkwardly* But being underwhelmed is a bummer…also the far fetched parts. I always get twitchy at those. >_> Still…I NEED TO READ IT SHANNON.

  3. Oh no! 3/5 is not good. I have this eARC so hopefully I get to it soon to see what you mean by this review. Solid writing and good character development may be enough to carry me through.
    I am almost finished with After the Crash. It seems like maybe the author is stringing me along at this point. I just need to plow through the last 25%, so hopefully have me review up by Wednesday.

    • Well, 3/5 isn’t BAD- it means I liked it more than I didn’t like it! I am curious about After the Crash- I got it at BEA and then let my parents read it, and they had mixed feelings. Hope that this one works out for you- I should stalk Goodreads to see if you’ve started 😉

  4. Yay, I’m glad there’s a big focus on family and friendships in this one! I kind of like how Immy is flawed in that way, it does sound something I could relate to too.That life lesson is definitely one to be remembered!

  5. It’s been a while I’ve wanted to read something about family tbh, but this will probably be the one. Thank you for review. Happy new year

  6. So I love that this one has such a great focus on family and friends and is well-written too. It’s such a shame though because I know the poor handling of the mental health illness will bother me without a doubt. I completely understand what you mean about being underwhelmed! There are just books like that with great elements, but SOMETHING is missing.
    Anyways, I’ll have to think about this one. If I see it on a trip to the library maybe I’ll get it.
    Lovely review, Shannon!

    • Yep- that’s the thing- there’s just that special thing that I didn’t feel. And with the mental health stuff- it’s hard because it isn’t during the whole book or anything, but one or two specific things really irritated me. Definitely a library type of book 😉

  7. Yay for a stepmother that is portrayed as nice, like THAT ALMOST NEVER HAPPENS. AND THE FRIENDS <3 Imogene definitely sounds easy to relate to, and we all do that, it’s human nature, right? Uhm, okay, the stepmother’s a therapist and she doesn’t take their mental health into consideration…yeah, a bit weird. I mean, can’t they not help but to? Let down ending to top it all off, noooooooooooooo.  I finished Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley yesterday, which I feel pretty middle about so have no idea what to say about it. HATE THOSE.

    • YES that sums it all up! UGH the middle ones are HARD. AT least you didn’t hate it, I have seen a lot of people reallly hate that book. OMG! I was just going to tell you that I missed you… and I went to your blog and saw a POST! It must be in my email, buried in 3822 other emails! YAYYY! 😀

  8. I don’t remember seeing this book anywhere but it does suck to go in expecting something, especially with an ending and being let down. I would totally love Jessa! I would hate that Immy doesn’t treats her as she deserves so that would make me dislike Immy a lot.
    My first book read this year was Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry and I loved it!! Perfect start to 2016!

    • Jessa was fun- she had her moments of being a bit boy crazy, but she was a good friend. OH I am so glad that you had a perfect start too! I read The Girl From Everywhere- definitely 5 stars- I even pre-ordered it to get the special maps hahha. I need to read Nowhere But Here too, so this is pleasing to me- both for me AND you 😀

  9. This is the first I’ve heard of this one. Sorry to hear it wasn’t a bigger hit with you. The implausibility would be quite a stumbling block for me. I hate when everything just magically falls into place, or the protagonist just runs into all the right people who have all the answers… it’s just all so easy. Yeah, not buying it. But at least it had other stuff going for it.
    My first book of the year is After You by Jojo Moyes. Just hit the 50% mark and I’m really enjoying it.

    • Yeah, it was hard- and I think worse because it did start off strong, so it is almost MORE of a letdown. And I am glad you’re enjoying it! I really need to read Me Before You- especially since it is a movie and even MORE especially since it is a movie with Sam Claflin!

  10. Hmm, not sure how I feel about this one. I have seen it a few times, but nothing crazy and maybe that’s a good thing. I doubt I’ll pick it up and it sucks it wasn’t much of a hit for you 🙁

  11. I agree. I went into this book expecting a lot more–especially with that creepy magic realism in the opening. I found the middle dragged and the more I think about it the less comfortable I am with how the mental health aspects were handled. I DID love the ending and the choosing friends/family with intention aspect. Just wish the final product had been a bit more cohesive. (And thank you for talking this out with me in DMs too!)

    • I was so glad that you wanted to talk about it 😀 And YES- I think that was a HUGE part of it- it started off VERY strong, and I was thinking I was going to like it more than I did. The end just fizzled out so much for me. I loved the family part too but… other things could have still happened. If you know what I mean 😉

  12. Sounds really interesting. I have read Queen of Shadows, and am currently reading The Assassin’s Blade and (re)reading TFIOS. 🙂 Thanks for the great review!

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