Darcey Bell | All I Want

The Book: 

All I Want by Darcey Bell
Published January 11, 2022 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Date read: September 4, 2022

The Characters: 

Emma and Ben


Buy it on Bookshop.org | Amazon

The Plot (from Goodreads):

When Emma’s husband, Ben, falls in love with a large Victorian mansion for sale in upstate New York, he swears to her the fixer-upper will be worth the risk. With a baby on the way, Emma would like to live in a charming, safe community, after all—and in a space larger than a one-bedroom New York City apartment. On impulse, she agrees to Ben’s plan and they put in an offer on the house.

Sure, the mansion has a somewhat creepy backstory and is a bit dilapidated, but Emma and Ben are in this together, aren’t they? When strange things start happening, Emma begins to experience a little buyer’s remorse. What’s the real history of this house? Is its dark history repeating itself? Why does her husband suddenly seem so distant? Is she in danger? Is her baby?

Combining the domestic anxiety of Liane Moriarty and the haunting twists and turns of Shirley Jackson, All I Want is an intensely absorbing novel that will change the way you look at your neighbors.

Click here for book spoilers for All I Want
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read All I Want, I suggest you turn back now.

The Twist:

Ben had found and visited the house before he let on to Emma that he was even looking. Lindsey wanted to be an actress, so when she realized a producer was interested in the house, she developed a plan to have Ben make her famous. She seduced him and began gaslighting Emma into thinking she was crazy and would be an unfit mother. Lindsey and Beth wrote the diary. Sally wasn’t really Lindsey’s stepmother–Lindsey had hired her to play the part. JD was her half brother, but he didn’t say anything to Emma because he needed the big payout from the job. The woman and baby in the field were Heather and her child, a local single mom Lindsey paid to stand in the field and the duck down as though she had disappeared (part of the gaslighting scheme).

Emma realizes what’s going on when she finds a note in their NYC apartment written in the same handwriting as the journal. She suspects Rebecca (Lindsey even put some of Rebecca’s perfume on Ben’s pillows to throw Emma off their trail), but when she goes down to the theater to confront Ben and Rebecca, she sees him kiss Lindsey. She goes into labor and is taken to the hospital.

In the hospital, Ben apologizes and seems to want to work things out with Emma, but then he kidnaps her and the baby and locks them in a room in the house upstate. Luckily, JD had taken pity on Emma by then, and made a second key when Ben asked him to put a lock on the outside of one of the bedrooms. JD rescues Emma, and when Ben and Lindsey run away together, they hit the oak tree and die.

The Ending:

There’s a whole epilogue about JD and Emma’s happy life together with their three kids, but then Emma wakes up one morning and she’s back in the hospital. Ben is there, and tells her that Ben and Emma were in an accident together but the baby was fine. It’s implied that Emma dreamed the whole book, and nothing is explained.

The Review: 

WTF did I just read, and why did I waste my time on this book? I never read reviews before a thriller, but that definitely backfired in this case.

There was so much potential here, but this one was a major flop. I love haunted houses, I love home renovations, and I can get behind the gaslighting/unreliable narrator angle when it’s done well. This one was 90% boring descriptions of Emma thinking she’s crazy but not catching on that someone’s messing with her, 9% decent explanation of events, and 1% ruining everything that might have redeemed it.

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