“When we were kids, she was always saving me from nothing”
When Nora and Charlotte’s babysitter goes missing, the two girls turn to psychic interventions to find out what happened to her, but fail. Rose’s bones turn up fifteen years later, and Nora feels compelled to return to her hometown and try once more to solve the mystery.
The mystery is skilfully managed, with a few hints along the way, but a full analysis is only possible when the final reveal is made. In a sense, all of the girls’ supernatural-themed activities are irrelevant, but the important material at that point is actually the girls’ behaviour. The small-town intrigue and schoolyard manipulation is also carefully constructed.The mystery of what actually happened to Rose is very much secondary to the drama of the interpersonal interactions. Nora seems to be a partly unreliable narrator, and it is only through her interactions with Charlotte and Toby that we find out what went on at school.
Arsenault has picked out an interesting cast – no one is even close to perfect. Nora was a painfully quiet child, a troubled teen, and appears to be a slightly unreliable adult narrator. Charlotte was a spoilt, bratty child, and having lost her journalistic job for misbehaviour, is now a smoking, drinking, dissatisfied English teacher at the very same high school that the girls attended. Toby’s a bit slow, but on the whole very likeable and kind. The parents all have their individual issues to keep them separate in the reader’s mind.
Every now and again, Arsenault would bring out a pretty phrase or a clever piece of wording:
“Fitting that Charlotte would call while I was doing nothing. When we were kids, she was always saving me from nothing. ‘What are you doing? Nothing’ “
“I scoffed at this weird notion, this mystical time and place – age eighteen – in which I’d wear a bikini and my mother could not tell me what to do. Atlantis seemed more probable and more reachable”
” ‘Never again’ was a dull kick in the stomach, but ‘forever’ was a spinning nausea”
“What was I still doing here, picking at some crusty old high-school scab?”
“What Toby described had to have occurred several days ago for the meat loaf to achieve its rock like quality. It made me want to giggle. You could put this pan in a museum and call it ‘Bachelorhood’ “
and one of the main criticisms of this novel is that Arsenault clearly knows how to write, but didn’t want to include too much ‘flowery language’ for fear of disturbing the plot. I would have liked to see her including more.
I really enjoyed this book, and while it’s not perfect, I would definitely be interested in reading more of this author’s writing.
Some other little notes about the reading experience:
This novel had one of the cutest acknowledgements I’ve read in a while:
“Thank you for everything, dear Ross – but especially for your patient multiple readings despite my stubborn refusal to add explosions, cowboys, or rescue dogs”
This was the first novel I read on Ted (the Kindle), and on the whole I found it a very positive experience. I was always aware of the screen, rather than the book, and the formatting (I received this as a PDF) bugged me sometimes, but I loved being able to pop some notes in without needing to carry a notebook around, link to passages easily, and read it at the gym! Being able to resize the text meant that I could read without feeling seasick from focussing on small text while moving. Could this mean an end to reading-induced car sickness?
Additional info: I received this as a PDF from the publisher through NetGalley Publisher: Harper Collins e-books, 3820 locations. Pre-order this from Amazon* * this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use these links, which goes towards giveaways.