If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
St. Martin’s Griffin, Hardcover 245 pages
If there ever was a book that had taken me by surprise, it’s this debut work by Emily Murdoch. To be frank, the story about a pair of siblings left to fend off for themselves in the woods didn’t seem all that novel, in my opinion. The subject of parental abandonment and neglect have been told, discussed and dissected in many forms.
In YA, absent parents are as a normal occurrence as kids falling in love with their best buds. I’d expected some things to happen as soon as they were found: the newness of living in the real world again among the public, the awkwardness of having to adjust to the modern world conveniences; and the painful realization that they would be living with their father for whom had been a monster in their eyes all these years. They are just some of instances in which I’d expected how the story would play out. But I never, ever, ever could have envisioned the awful horrors that Carey and Jenessa went through in the hands of their mother and those associated with her.
Emily Murdoch’s gutting debut will hurt you in such short pages. The sad, selective mute that was Jenessa will bury herself like a splinter in your aching heart while the independent, strong-willed Carey will hold your hand and will tell you in that backwoods accented voice of hers that they will be all right. She’ll attempt to show a brave face but you know there are cracks in the way she’s fronting.
The thing about Carey is, she told her story in such a cold, calculating way that it left me wondering why it hurt more. And the more time I sit here and compose this review, the more I realized that it was just the way she accepted things that was even more painful than reading her flounder for reasons why she was dealt with such ugly cards. This girl didn’t have room to dwell on abandonment issues simply because it’s the life she’d gotten used to. What I especially liked about her was her ability to compartmentalized all the good things from the millions of shitty things about her life. Like the backhanded life lessons she’d learned from her mother – being a civilized, respectful person regardless of where and how she grew up.
There are also moments when you find yourself in awe of the innocent wonder in both Jenessa’s and Carey’s vision of the world they’d missed. And several moments of searing anger toward the mother that had abandoned them while searching for her bliss through drugs. Also instances where you would feel the sympathetic pain as you imagined the days and years that a father had spent wondering if his daughter was still alive.
This is a short book but I was completely amazed by the many layers that were peeled in a short while I spent reading it. And that, is the beauty of the author’s writing: she said more than what she’d written, therefore giving us readers the liberty of interpretation.
My rating: 5 out of 5 Stars