Fiction. Literature. HTML:A New York Times Notable Book In the unrelenting cold and bitter winter of upstate New York, Jack and his wife, Fanny, are trying to cope with the desperate sorrow they feel over the death of their young daughter. The loss forms a chasm in their relationship as Jack, a sardonic Vietnam vet, looks for a way to heal them both. Then, in a nearby town, a fourteen-year-old girl disappears somewhere between her home and church. Though she is just one of the hundreds of children who vanish every year in America, Jack turns all his attention to this little girl. For finding what has become of this child could be Jack's salvationā??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
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.
And yet, despite all the dark threads mentioned here, I often found myself chuckling or even guffawing at small things slipped into Jack's stream of consciousness narration, sometimes subtle irony, and sometimes just flat out funny. Weaving dark and light together this way? Not easy. But Busch is a master at this kind of unexpected comic relief, as well as making you squirm at the nastier stuff or scaring the hell out of you.
I had read GIRLS before, but could not remember "whodunit," and Busch kept me guessing to the very end. This is simply one helluva good read, and if you've never read any Fred Busch, this book would be a good place to begin. My very highest recommendation.
- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER