The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown (2 out of 5)

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I expected this book to roll, because the cover is great. I really, really, really do like the cover. And then it went in weird directions. I won this in a giveaway from S&S, and i was looking so forward to digging in and having the crap scared out of me. The blurbs promised a psychological mystery and a story of a childhood mystery unsolved carrying over into the life of intimately involved. Well, somewhat. 

The woods and swampy marshland-like area are a great place for the children and mysterious vagrant woodsman to traipse through and claim as their own in 1974. That is, until a lot of the fun games of childhood disappear along with 9-year old Laura Loomis. Sadie knows Laura from school. Years later, Sadie and her best friend are at it again, playing childish pranks on a girl they go to school with. The victim of the joke then disappears, as Loomis does. Are they related? Are Sadie and her friend’s hijinks to blame for aiding the kidnapper somehow? Many questions. Some get answered at the end, some are left hanging in the wind.

Jump forward to 2002. Sadie is an adult, married, and brokenhearted over her 3rd child, a little girl, being stillborn. Sadie is going through all sorts of emotional hell, and digs up the Laura Loomis disappearance and her unwilling role (does she play one?) in the kidnapping. Sadie has a flirtation going with the town rebel, who’s mourning the loss of his father. I believe the two of them have a common thread between them of recent loss. I think that’s really it. Sadie’s husband is loving, but from her wayward musings (should have been the name of this novel), you would think that by him giving her time and space to grieve the loss of their child without crowding her like an overattentive psychiatrist, that he’s an uncaring jackass. This novel is dark, make no mistake. Sadie seems to almost be going through post-partum depression, minus the baby, and her guilt seems at points, to almost eat her alive. You feel sorry for her, but the character doesn’t let you in much. The walls around her emotional tundra do not come down easily, and therefore, the reader (myself, at least) doesn’t much care for her. And that was my main problem here. Sadie comes across as a petulant, somewhat mean spirited child who does what she does and doesn’t often think of the circumstances. I know, she’s a kid, who does when you’re young? However, that follows her into adulthood- mainly in her handling of the flirtation with the town Romeo. So you can’t really excuse her behavior. I had a hard time with that. She’s just not a very sympathetic character. Sure, some bad shit goes down in her life, but nothing to the point of being a cold-hearted little bitch, and that’s how she comes off. As an adult mother and wife mourning the loss of her child, you feel sympathy, but I felt it in small intervals. The fact that she’s flirting it up with Overall Boy Joe Cow-eyes so soon after her miscarriage, well, it could be argued it’s shock and grief, but the way she’s written, she doesn’t come off like that. I had a hard time wrapping my head and compassion around Sadie. And that is at the heart of my issue with this book. 

Not only that, but the mystery of Laura Loomis and what happened, as well as Francie, the other girl- comes to a conclusion that seems a little bit too neatly wrapped up. There’s a lot of fuss made about the physical similarity between Sadie and the missing Laura, but you’re never made aware of why. Another unanswered question. You realize that Sadie’s childhood was punctuated by her mother’s periodic disappearances into the darkness of depression and that it affected Sadie more than anyone knows ( even Sadie herself). Sadie begins to realize as the book goes on, that her apple doesn’t fall far from Mama’s bushel. Is that good for her? In this case, definitely not. It does give you a little bit more of an idea why she’s an indecisive, aloof fishmonger housewife. That was harsh, but that’s how I felt reading the book.

There are many hidden layers to this book. I just didn’t care by the end of the book what they were, why they were, and how they contributed to the story of Sadie’s current unraveling and the years old mystery of the missing girls. I almost feel like Sadie IS Laura Loomis, and that is a plot twist that I think would have worked. ( I’m not just saying that because it’s my idea, but it would certainly explain why the recurrence of “You look so much like her.” every other page. ) 

 I do like how Brown wrote her suburban mystery, but something is really missing her. A lot of sympathy for Sadie, and that’s what probably killed it for me, overall. I’ll no doubt give her next book a spin, but this one ended up being too much of a time-traveling mess for me to dive into and fully embrace. You can’t really love this book when you want to bitch-slap the character throughout the whole book. 

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~ by generationgbooks on July 27, 2013.

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