Julia Heaberlin is a magician with words. Every page of We Are All the Same in the Dark is beautiful and surprising. A police procedural at heart, you will be captivated the whole way, asking “Whodunnit?” and dazzled by the sentences and paragraphs on each page. The imagery is profound, as are the secrets unearthed along the way. Per usual — any mystery worth its weight in gold needs to search for both the killer and something more: the human condition. We can’t stop thinking about this book.
“If you only read one thriller this year, let it be this one. Psychologically absorbing, original and atmospheric. I could not turn the pages fast enough.”—Elin Hilderbrand, #1 New York Times bestselling author of 28 Summers
It’s been a decade since Trumanell Branson disappeared, leaving only a bloody handprint behind. Her pretty face still hangs like a watchful queen on the posters on the walls of the town’s Baptist church, the police station, and in the high school. They all promise the same thing: We will find you. Meanwhile, Tru’s brother, Wyatt, lives as a pariah in the desolation of the old family house, cleared of wrongdoing by the police but tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion and in a new documentary about the crime.
When Wyatt finds a lost girl dumped in a field of dandelions, making silent wishes, he believes she is a sign. The town’s youngest cop, Odette Tucker, believes she is a catalyst that will ignite a seething town still waiting for its own missing girl to come home. But Odette can’t look away. She shares a wound that won’t close with the mute, one-eyed mystery girl. And she is haunted by her own history with the missing Tru.
Desperate to solve both cases, Odette fights to save the lost girl in the present and to dig up the shocking truth about a fateful night in the past—the night her friend disappeared, the night that inspired her to become a cop, the night that wrote them all a role in the town’s dark, violent mythology.
In this twisty psychological thriller, Julia Heaberlin paints unforgettable portraits of a woman and a girl who redefine perceptions of physical beauty and strength.
Praise for We Are All the Same in the Dark
“This chilling tale of buried sins is relentlessly unpredictable.”—The Times (South Africa)
“[Julia] Heaberlin knows how to build to a truly shocking twist, how to break a reader’s heart and then begin mending it. ‘What’s coming is always unimaginable,’ Odette’s one-time therapist tells her, ‘and by that, I mean just that. It cannot be imagined. What’s coming never acts or behaves the way we think it will.’ That’s true for this novel, too.”—The Dallas Morning News
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
It takes about eight to ten hours to hand-dig a grave, more if you was doing it in the dark. Five to six if you have a helper. It ain’t like the movies. You need more than just a spade with a good blade. You need a chainsaw for splitting the roots. A pick. Even if you don’t hit rocks, you got Texas clay, which can be as bad as rocks. I always carry a measuring tape and a yardstick, because you’ve got to make a hole a lot bigger than in your mind’s eye. And you’ve got to go deep enough that folks and animals walking by can’t smell the body rotting. I’d go eighteen inches of soil on top to be safe. Bottom line, if you’re asking me my opinion, I don’t think that Branson girl will ever be found. I never saw anything like the search for her body. Every farm. Every bit of lake property. The cops got a color-coded map and took it inch by inch, year by year, until it was all done. I’ll tell you this: If that girl was buried around here, and buried fast, she was buried by someone who knows his dirt. That might be a farmer. That might be a person who’s killed a lot.
—Albert Jenkins, 66, cemetery gravedigger
Excerpt from The Tru Story crime documentary
Reading Group Guide
1. "I want to tell her, We are all the same in the dark.” Why do you think Julia Heaberlin chose this as the title for her novel? How does this sentiment relate to the characters and how they are perceived? How does it relate to the topics of vulnerability and overcoming adversity? What does its sentiment mean to you?
2. In the book, Wyatt and Odette are haunted, literally and figuratively, and burdened by the past. Is there any time or place in your life where you felt the weight of history? Do you believe in ghosts, or have you ever had a paranormal experience? If so, what is your what is your “theory” of ghosts, what they’re like, how they reach us, and what purpose they serve?
3. How does small town gossip and legend work against Odette? How do the stories we tell, and the stories we tell ourselves, shape our identity and expectations? Have you ever had to challenge any personal narratives or myths?
4. Thwarted potential is a theme in the novel: from Trumanell’s death, to Wyatt losing his mind, to Odette and Angel losing physical parts of themselves. In our culture, we love prodigies, ingenues, wunderkind, and rising stars. Why is potential so fascinating and prized in our culture? Is it over-valued?
5. "I always wondered: What if I’d watched the reel of my movie with her one more time? Two more times? Three more times? What else might I have seen through the crack of the door . . .” Odette is haunted by those what-if scenarios: what if she could have said or done something differently with her friend, could her death have been prevented? She carries those alternate realities in her mind and tortures herself with what could have been. She longs to rewrite history—but it can never be done. How does this relate to her relationship with Angel? Do you have any what-if parallel universes in your mind? Have you ever compared yourself or your choices to a hypothetical alternative?
6. The house bullies me with its history,” Odette remarks on page 84. How do the Texan setting and its landmarks take on human characteristics, and what is the effect? Do you think that places can hold onto memories, that the events of what occurred there can linger?
7. Discuss Odette and Angel’s reluctance to let the loss of an eye and a leg define them. How does it interact with their traumas and inform their ambitions over time?
8. Wyatt tells Finn that, “[He] shouldn’t mistake grief for love. Guilt for passion.” What did he mean by this? How does it manifest in other ways besides Odette’s feelings for Wyatt? Do you agree that grief can easily be misconstrued as other emotions, and if so, why?
9. How do you feel about the time gap in the middle of the novel—and Odette’s shocking fate? Are you surprised by any of the characters and what they are up to five years after Odette’s death?
10. In We Are All the Same in the Dark, many characters express a frustration with the half-truths of an explosive documentary, and it is revealed that Dr. Greco has authored a true crime book about Trumanell and Odette. Why do you think we are so fascinated with stories about crime and murder? What does the novel say about the pitfalls of how we choose to frame certain stories? Do you think it’s fair for a documentary to have certain biases?
11. “We are whole human beings existing the best we can without a part. . . . That’s everybody who is a survivor.” What does the novel suggest about the possibility of repair after enormous trauma? What fuels each characters’ quests for healing and what do you think is necessary for individuals to recover?