books and reading · reviews

Book Review: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Carey and her sister Jenessa have lived in a broken-down camper in the middle of a national forest in Tennessee for as long as Carey can remember.  Their mother leaves for weeks at a time, showing up with canned goods and hand-me-down clothing every once in a while.  But her visits are becoming fewer and further in between when the girls are discovered and taken away from the woods by Carey’s biological father and a social worker.  Now, they must adapt to life in mainstream society, but it won’t be easy: Jenessa doesn’t talk, and Carey knows why.  Both girls are hiding secrets, and the truth won’t stay hidden forever.

Emily Murdoch’s powerful, painful, and ultimately hopeful novel is a quiet examination of the power of forgiveness and family.  Quiet, beautifully written, and ultimately redemptive, this is one that shouldn’t be missed.  A memorable and often haunting story, hand this to readers who like their novels quiet and their characters complex.

Murdoch’s novel doesn’t offer her readers any easy answers to the questions it raises, and she doesn’t set out to make anyone in her novel a straight villain or an angel, either.  Carey’s voice is unbelievably authentic and absolutely unforgettable.  Her speech patterns are memorable, their cadence fascinating.  She’s a complex character, but readers will find it impossible not to root for her and her nearly silent younger sister.

The novel isn’t terribly long, but Murdoch explores all sorts of issues, including addition, sexual assault, the enduring strength of love and the unbreakable bond of sisters.  Carey’s feelings for Jenessa are palpable, and her struggle to forgive herself and accept her father is gradual and ultimately quite satisfying.

This is a standout of a debut, and Murdoch is an author to watch.

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. St. Martin’s Griffin: 2013. Electronic galley accepted for review via Netgalley and read for the 2013 Cybils.

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