Driving alongside West Quebec’s Gatineau River near her home one April afternoon, researcher Ellen McGinn spots a parked car that looks like it might belong to her friend and colleague, Lucy Stockman. Lucy, a freelance writer, lives in nearby Ottawa. Shortly after arriving home, Ellen receives a phone call from Lucy’s common-law partner: Lucy has disappeared.
That night Ellen has an unusual dream in which she receives three clear messages: she is to search, she is to write everything down—and Lucy is safe.
But is she? Ellen’s continuing dreams seem to indicate otherwise, and then there is the suspicious behaviour of Lucy’s partner, a man with a violent past that includes a manslaughter conviction. Led by a series of disturbing visions she doubts but can’t ignore, Ellen embarks on a nerve-wracking search that takes her to wooded areas, abandoned buildings and even the river. But what begins as a physical search soon also becomes a determined quest for the truth beyond the stereotypical appearances of her friend’s risky relationship. Terrified for her own life and getting in over her head with a compelling police detective, Ellen reaches a deeper than bargained for understanding of Lucy’s dark journey—and of her own self.
Through the intertwining stories of the two women and the enduring presence of the river, Tell Anna She’s Safe takes the reader below the sometimes frightening, uncontrollable surface circumstances of our lives, to reveal the steady current of power and knowing we all hold within.
Author’s note: The novel is inspired by and based on the life of my friend and colleague, Louise Ellis, a freelance writer who disappeared from her Ottawa home in 1995. I knew I was going to write her story almost from the moment I happened upon her abandoned car beside the Gatineau River. Because of the difficult subject matter, it took 10 years to complete the novel. For more, see The Story Behind the Story, though it contains spoilers, and you might want to wait until after you’ve finished the book.