Monday, July 22, 2013

Review of If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

St. Martin's Griffin
If You Find Me
by Emily Murdoch
5 Stars

Fifteen-year-old Carey is very protective of her sister, Janessa, and she should be. Their mother, a former musician and member of the symphony is a mentally ill drug-addict who has left the two girls abandoned, living in a trailer in the woods of Tennessee with only a few cans of beans and the heads on their shoulders to survive. And the girls have survived, despite the abuse and neglect they have endured, but now the state has found them, and the two are being sent to live with their father in a world that is foreign to them—a world that threatens to expose the secrets they are hiding.
Beautifully written in a fluid and poetic voice, the reader might find themselves riveted to this story for the appreciation of the writing alone. Yet, readers will more likely fall in love with Carey. It is hard not to fear for Carey and cheer for her as she emerges from a world that seems as foreign as the Middle Ages and steps timidly into the modern world. Taken very young and fed with lies from their mother, Carey suffers from a sort of Stockholm Syndrome, which makes it difficult for her to see or understand her mother’s criminal behavior. It is this that makes the reader want to read on and see how Carey and Janessa grow after their liberation from the trailer in the woods—however, it’s not the only curiosity.  Carey repeatedly references the “White Star Night” a night that stole Janessa’s voice, and that Carey fears will expose her as unlikeable and guilty, and will take her away from this new life and from Janessa. If the elegant writing and wonderful characterization of the innocent Carey, sweet Janessa, Delaney (who we hate to love) and Carey’s new parents aren’t enough to draw the reader in, the mystery of The White Star Night clenches it. Perhaps best of all is the fact that while the story is complete, it doesn’t necessarily resolve Carey’s fears or spell out the consequences of Carey’s past for the reader. Far from being a weakness, it reinforces the reality that peppers this novel—we know that whatever happens to Carey in the future, whatever consequences come from her terrible past,  she will endure and overcome. Such is the strength of her character, and the merit of those who love her. This is a wonderful story that shows how “being close to people [means] hurting sometimes…” and how that hurt, while devastating and painful, can help us recognize healthy relationships when they come.  It also reveals the pain and confusion children feel when they are betrayed by those who are supposed to love them—those who have been consumed by a chemical reality that skews the parent/child relationship.

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