One Sister Disappears. One Never Stops Looking. Read an Excerpt from “Things Don't Break on Their Own” (Exclusive)

In Sarah Easter Collins' new thriller, one sister's abduction shadows the rest of the other's life — until one fateful dinner party

<p>Crown Publishing; Bella West Photography</p>

Crown Publishing; Bella West Photography

'Things Don't Break on Their Own' by Sarah Easter Collins

Willa's sister disappeared without a trace 25 years ago, and it's haunted her ever since. She sees her sister everywhere, and is convinced she's still alive — especially since the police never found her body. Then, when an old flame throws a dinner party, Willa assumes it'll be just another get-together. But you know what they say about assumptions.

That's the premise of Things Don't Break On Their Own by Sarah Easter Collins, out July 16 from Crown, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Read an exclusive excerpt below — and consider it an appetizer.

<p>Crown Publishing</p> 'Things Don't Break on Their Own'

Crown Publishing

'Things Don't Break on Their Own'

When Michael arrives, I watch the warmth of the sibling hug he shares with Robyn with no small pang. All that understanding, I think, all that shared history. All those strong, unspoken bonds. The tsunami of grief I once felt for Laika’s absence is more like a quiet wave these days, something that resides deep inside me, lapping somewhere at the edges of my mind. It’s been so long, but it’s there.

It’s always, always there.

Michael hugs me too; I’ve known him for years. Then I turn to meet his girlfriend, Liv, biting my lip as some secret part of me steps forward. Get a grip, I tell myself, this is Michael’s girlfriend. But the thing is, Liv is a very attractive woman. She barely needs the touch of eyeliner that outlines her eyes; she’s just one of those women who is startlingly beautiful in a completely natural, unstudied way.

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She brushes a stray lock of hair away from her face and tips her head on one side, listening carefully to Michael as he speaks. According to Robyn, Michael said she reminds him of me. That’s nice, I think, she’s lovely. I’m flattered we’ve been compared.

I’m not the only one watching Liv. Robyn is too. In fact, with the exception of Cat, all of us are watching Liv, including, I note, my boyfriend. I watch Jamie rise from the table and pull himself up to his full height, then move toward her with the fixed gaze of a cat watching a bird. Greeting her, he liquifies into charm personified, his voice lowered to almost a purr, a slow smile edging across his face. He seats her opposite him, pours her a glass of wine and pulls her into conversation. I wait to feel the dark burr of jealousy but it doesn’t come. I think, You big tart, but not with any particular rancor. I don’t actually feel anything.

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“Nate’s running late,” Cat says. “Sorry everyone.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Liv says. “It’s not like he’s vanished off the face of the earth.”

Everyone looks toward me. Individually, their movements are so small, so underplayed, that they could easily be missed. It’s just that they do it en masse, and Liv looks around, aware, of something. Eyes move from her to me, and in that beat of silence I feel for her. I know what it’s like, that feeling, to be the outsider, the one person left out.

“My little sister disappeared,” I tell her, “twenty-two years ago. She was 13. Abducted, probably. Someone took her, we think.”

My breath catches in my throat, and my words come out sounding strangely low and hoarse. “They never found her body.”

Suddenly I feel as if I want to cry. It’s hard, this story, even now, even after all these years, and I swallow as something awful moves through me, something deadly swimming up from the past. Because now I’m remembering the very last time I ever saw Laika, standing in front of me in the furred early hours with blood on her hands. That’s what I always remember: her hands. I never remember her face.

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That’s something nobody ever tells you, that the face of a person you once loved can fade like an unfixed photograph. The awful truth is this:I have no real idea what she’d look like now. When I try to imagine her as a grown woman, an adult in her midthirties, I can’t. The only mental images I have of Laika are as a blurry 13-year-old, fuzzy and featureless, as if even then she was already fading from my memory somehow, becoming unrecognizable, slipping away to the point where I could unknowingly walk past her any day of the week.

Jamie’s finger drums the table.

“She could be anyone,” I say to Liv. “She could be you.”

Excerpted from Things Don’t Break on Their Own by Sarah Easter Collins. Copyright © 2024 by Sarah Easter Collins. Published in the United States by Crown, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.  

Things Don't Break on Their Own is out July 16 and is available now for preorder, wherever books are sold.

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