by Emily Murdoch
to be published by St Martin's Griffin
on March 26, 2013
Connect with the author: blog : Twitter : website.
Heads up on content: There is some potentially disturbing subject matter here. Nothing is gratuitous or extremely explicit and, as you will see from my review, I highly recommend this book. As always, email me if you have any questions!
Summary (adapted from Goodreads:) A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys. Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.
My take: If You Find Me combines the suspense of a thriller and the beautiful writing of a literary novel with the intense emotional experience of a unflinching coming of age story. If You Find Me is unique and unforgettable book, a book that will stay with you long after you've turned the final page.
There were so many things I loved about the book. First, the writing. Emily Murdoch's bio says she's a poet as well as a writer, and it shows. The book is filled with beautiful phrases and descriptions, and Carey's voice is distinct and engaging. Carey's spent years living in the woods with her mother and younger sister. With no television and no peers, Carey's speech patterns reflect her mother's -- complete with dropped G's and anachronistic expressions. While I love accents in real life, I was concerned that the whole book would be written in misspelled dialect, which is something that tends to result in me throwin' up my hands in annoyance. Not to worry -- as Carey transitions from the woods to the real world, she makes an effort to speak "properly," but her dialogue and internal monologue still retain some of her quirky phrasings and unique take on the world.
I loved the intense emotional journey that reading If You Find Me entails, a journey that was at times frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring. As the story opens, Carey and Jenessa are being ripped from the only home they've even known. Since I was reading on a kindle, I hadn't seen the book's blurb and wasn't sure if the people "rescuing" the girls were even to be trusted.
As Carey adapts to her new life, she's haunted by her old one. She can't face her future until she comes to terms with her past. For me, this part of the book was incredibly suspenseful. Carey drops a few hints as the book progresses, and my apprehension increased. I actually had to stop reading a couple times, because I had a feeling about the revelations that were to come, and I was afraid. I don't want to say too much about what happens, because Carey's emotional journey is full of surprises for the reader and I wouldn't want to spoil even one.
I also enjoyed the themes of family, nature and beauty that I noticed in If You Find Me. Family bonds are broken and remade. The Hundred Acre Wood -- where Carey lived for years with her mother and sister in a broken-down camper -- is a source of beauty and comfort to Carey, and also a source of unease and fear.
I'm always curious about writers' influences, and I noticed on Emily's Goodreads bio that she listed these authors as some of her favorites: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Lucy Maud Montgomery. Not only are these some of my favorites as well, but having read many books by these authors, I can actually see the way that If You Find Me fits into this list. The kinship that Mary Lennox of The Secret Garden feels with the natural world, the way Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables slowly and fearfully integrates herself into her new family, Laura Ingalls' sometimes awkward adjustment from prairie to town -- I see Carey as in fitting right into this trio of tough, resilient literary heroines who get knocked down hard by life but discover that the world is still filled with magic and beauty and people who care.
I have an interview scheduled with Emily Murdoch tomorrow as part of the blog tour, and I look forward to asking her about some of these aspects of her story. St. Martin's Press is also letting me give away a copy of the book as part of this tour. I hope you can stop by!