“We are the ghosts of lives stolen
And lives never lived…“
Heather Young ~ The Lost Girls
In the summer of 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys her mother, who spends the rest of her life at the lake house, hoping in vain that her favourite daughter will walk out of the woods. Emily’s two older sisters stay, too, each keeping her own private, decades-long vigil for the lost child.
Sixty years later Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before she dies, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person to whom it might matter: her grandniece, Justine.
For Justine, the lake house offers a chance to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the stable home she never had. But it’s not the sanctuary she hoped for. The long Minnesota winter has begun. The house is cold and dilapidated, the frozen lake is silent and forbidding, and her only neighbour is a strange old man who seems to know more than he’s telling about the summer of 1935.
Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives with designs on her inheritance, and the man she left behind launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house steeped in the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children.
This may be the most disappointing book I’ve read this year.
The premise is brilliant but the story itself meanders along in a dual timeline that adds very little.
The 1935 story is atmospheric, but nothing really happens and what does happen is so slow that it borders on boring. I was expecting some shocking twist, but it’s actually quite obvious what happened to Emily, why Lilith is the way she is and the real guilt the father feels.
In fact, the synopsis gives away the entire plot, yet actually over-dramatises the story, leaving the book flat and unremarkable.
Characters are not likeable at all and the motive for their behaviour is very strange. Justine brings nothing to the story and does not even ‘solve’ the mystery.
It’s well-written, albeit long-winded, but unfortunately it just doesn’t work at all.
I received a copy of the book from Verve Books and Oldcastle Publicity. Opinions my own.