Thursday, May 15, 2014

Karen Brown's novel leaves you longing for more

            Sadie is on the verge of adolescence in 1979, living in an idyllic New England suburb at the start of “The Longings of Wayward Girls” by Karen Brown. She’s both curious and imaginative and the summer before high school she and her best friend Betty are thrown together with Francie, an awkward girl whose family is shunned by the neighborhood.
            Not wanting to be associated with a geeky girl, Sadie and Betty play a prank on Francie, first making up a farm boy that’s supposedly interested in Sadie, then writing letters from the imagined farm boy to Francie, who replies in turn.
            But Sadie’s imaginary farm boy is actually Ray FIlley, a boy from the neighboring farm she’s secretly attracted to. Only a few years before, in 1974, nine-year-old Laura Loomis had disappeared from the same neighborhood, a girl who looks remarkably like Sadie. Laura was never found. When Sadie and Betty write (as the farm boy) to Francie that he wishes to run away with her, Francie disappears as well.
            The girls believe Francie has run away, but as the years pass and neither child is seen from again, they learn to live with their guilty secret. As an adult, Sadie marries and has two children of her own. One day, Ray Filley returns to town and an attraction develops between them. Sadie must come to grips with her feelings for her family, Ray, her mother and the past that continues to haunt her.
            The book bounces back and forth between Sadie's youth and as an adult, and I found that style really developed the suspense. Sadie is flawed, selfish and egotistical at times and when she makes grave mistakes you want to reach into the book and slap her, which develops the suspense even more. My only complaint was developments so obvious to Sadie and readers are ignored until the end, which lessened both the character and the plot in my eyes.
            Overall the book is well written and the story keeps you hanging, wanting for more. A great summer read!