A Girl Named Anna is a gripping new thriller from debut author Lizzy Barber. Described as "One of those thrillers in which it is almost impossible not to flick ahead" by The Observer, the novel first made waves in 2017, when it won the Daily Mail and Random House First Novel Prize.
Barber's novel goes back and forth between two points of view: Anna's and Rosie's. Growing up, Anna always listened to her Mamma. But on her eighteenth birthday, she decides to break the rules. She sets off to Astroland with her boyfriend, William. It's Anna's first visit to Astroland—or so she believes. Yet while exploring the sprawling Florida theme park, Anna can't shake the sense that she's been here before. To make matters stranger, Anna receives a letter that same day—a letter addressing her by a different name...
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Enter Rosie, the book's second narrative voice. Fifteen years ago, Rosie's sister disappeared without a trace. The tragedy has tormented her family ever since. When the money dedicated to finding the missing sibling runs out, Rosie decides to solve the case herself. But can she crack the case before the mystery tears her family apart?
Both a dark and disturbing thriller and a compelling coming-of-age story, A Girl Named Anna is sure to keep you reading long into the night.
Read on for an excerpt from A Girl Named Anna below, and then download the book!
Dirt has a way of falling through the smallest of cracks. You may think there is nothing there, but it will always be found eventually.
I raise my fingers through the cooling bathwater and check my nails, looking for the invisible fragments of dust I always fail to spot but Mamma homes in on with such definite aim. In my head, I rehearse the words I have whispered to myself so many times I see them written across my lids when I close my eyes.
Today is my eighteenth birthday and, for the first time, I am lying to my mother.
I sought out the comfort of the bath, hoping it would ease the tension. But even here I cannot shut out the remnants of my fractured sleep. The ghost of my dream floats on the water’s clouded surface; the dream that has come before, that has grown more frequent as my anxiety has mounted, its creeping fingers reaching for me in the strangest of moments. A dream that feels so real I swear it isn’t a dream at all.
It taps me on the shoulder now, revolving and gyrating just out of reach. A whirl of bright colors. Laughter, music. A face, the features blurred. And a voice, calling. I know it’s me they’re seeking, but something isn’t right: the name they’re calling isn’t mine.
I pull the plug and the water begins to swirl around me, milky with the residue of peach-scented foam. My voice penetrates the silence of the bathroom, although I’m not sure if it’s real or in my mind. “No. My name is Anna.”
The bathwater drains, but the dream lingers.
In the bedroom, I situate myself. Take in the calico curtains that remain always drawn; a hermetic seal against the outside world. The pinewood dresser whose contents are neither numerous nor elaborate. The crucifix on the wall, under whose watchful limbs I say my nightly prayers. The bed. The chair. These things—these petty, everyday things—are the items that make me feel safe. These are the sights that tell me I am home, and happy, when my memory tries to convince me otherwise.
I peek through the curtains and turn my chin to the daylight, allowing it to wash away the last of the disquieting night. It’s another beautiful morning in Alachua County. I’m reminded of my favorite hymn, “Morning Has Broken,” and hum the opening notes as I tidy the bed and fold my nightdress under the pillow, making everything neat, precise. When not a speck remains out of place, I pull on the denim blue dress I know Mamma likes best, and release my hair from the knot that has been holding it, damp around the edges from where the bathwater has licked it.
“Happy birthday,” I tell the girl in the mirror as I rake a comb through the tangles. “Today is your eighteenth birthday.” She smiles back, curious, uncertain, and I ask her, not for the first time, if I am pretty.
I asked Mamma once, but she shook her head and gave me a little laugh. Not cruel, just dismissive. “Pride is a sin, Anna. We are all pretty, because we are all gifts from God.” I never asked her again.
I suppose I consider myself pretty enough. My face, though I always find it a little round, is free from marks or blemishes. I’ve never needed braces, which is good, because Mamma despises the dentist. My eyes are clear, and a soft brown like maple syrup, although not Mamma’s enviable sparkling blue. My hair is the color of wet sand, but it picks up blond streaks in the summer, and falls to my shoulders in a thick curtain. Some of the girls at school, the so-called popular kids whose names all blur into one, have theirs dyed bleached-blond and cut into sharp layers, but I know that even if I should have such an inclination, there is no way Mamma would allow it.
Mamma says we should be happy with what God gave us.
Dressed, I make my way down the stairs, mentally skimming through that string of words one final time: We’re driving to Ocala National Forest; we’re going hiking; we’re having a picnic. My throat constricts—I swallow sharply. Forest. Hiking. Picnic. Nothing else.
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This excerpt from A Girl Named Anna includes the first pages from Anna's point of view. To meet Rosie, find out what happens when Anna goes to Astroland and piece together the shocking mystery for yourself, get your hands on a copy of A Girl Named Anna today.
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This story first appeared on Early Bird Books.