In the unrelenting cold and bitter winter of Upstate New York, Jack and his wife, Fanny, are trying to come to terms with the desperate sorrow they feel over the death of their young daughter. A chasm has formed in their relationship and Jack is looking for a way to heal them both. Meanwhile, near the town where they live, a fourteen-year-old girl has gone missing between her parents' home and her father's church. She has become one of the hundreds of children who seemingly disappear into thin air every year in this country. Finding what has become of this child could be Jack's salvation, if he can just get to her in time.
And, for all that, this is an unpretentious book about how a girl gone missing from a small farming community impacts the life of a man with the sorrow of his own daughter's death. Jack works as a university security guard, protecting the pampered children of well-to-do families as they do their best to misbehave. His wife and he are not doing so well; although they both wish their relationship was better, improving it seems to be impossible. Jack isn't a talkative man and his closest relationship is with his dog. When an acquaintance asks him to look into the girl's disappearance, he is reluctant to get involved. The state police know what they are doing and his investigating days never amounted to more than getting drunk servicemen to admit to their acts of violence. He slowly becomes obsessed with the missing girl, as she becomes mixed in his mind with his own daughter.
As much a psychological study of people handling more than they're equipped for, the plot nonetheless is well put together, creating a book that is both an entertainment and worth thinking about afterward.
It's a suspense story, but the writing style is really very unusual. One of the things I liked about it is that the reader is never exactly sure how she feels about the various characters, they all seem to have good and bad sides. Our narrator is a security guard at an upstate New York college, and has recently lost a daughter -- the title refers to the various young girls that intersect his life, and his drive to protect these girls from harm. I got into an interesting conversation with a bartender while I was reading this book, about the fact that the title "Girls" seems like it should be salacious. I think the author plays with this idea, too.
Recommended: to people who like suspense, but are also interested in the psychology of the various characters in the story. This is almost more like an atmosphere piece than an actual mystery.