17 June 2013

The Longings of Wayward Girls; Karen Brown

The Longings of Wayward GirlsThe Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Inspired by a real disappearance, the author imagines what that might be like for the friends left behind. At least, that's what she's trying to do. The thing is, there are two disappearances here: Laura's and Francie's. Laura is the first to disappear, and headlines set off parts of the books ("Girl Missing"... "Search Expanded"... etc. type headlines). However, it's Francie's disappearance that is the more important one, which is a little odd - given the headlines and Laura's disappearance, I'd hoped for more about her.

Sadie and Betty are good friends, in and out of each others houses in the way kids often are. Sadie's mother is an actress with the local acting group, possibly an alcoholic, definitely troubled. We also meet Beth, the daughter of the local patron, who lives in a huge house with an in-ground pool, and who has a Very Cute older brother, Ray. Back in the 1970s, children disappearing was rare and Laura's disappearance shakes their cozy world. Beth was friends with Laura, the others less so, but still, they're all a little nervous (the parents more nervous than the kids). Francie is the odd kid in the neighborhood, the one that doesn't quite fit in, and one day Sadie and Betty see her hiding a letter to someone - they decide to respond, in what today is called "catfishing" (think Manti Te'o) and ultimately convince Francie to run away with "Hezekiah". Only Francie really does go missing, which seems to be the deciding straw in Sadie and Betty growing apart.

This story is intermixed with a more modern story, one where Sadie is married with two children. She's recently had a very late term miscarriage and is - understandable - depressed. Over the course of the summer, she starts to make changes and choices that probably stem from that; some of them have their root in that long-ago summer and the questions/culpabilities that raises.

As I said, the use of Laura for the headlines but having very little about her in the plot was a little odd. The other problem for me was that there were so many stereotypical things added, and none of the characters surprised me. Almost as soon as I met someone I could begin to predict the outcome and their arc, which works better in mysteries than it does here.

ARC provided by publisher.

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