Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Where They Found Her

Ridgedale, New Jersey is a quiet town until a dead newborn is found in the woods bordering the prestigious college. The whole town is sent reeling by the senseless tragedy. Speculation abounds, but no one seems to know anything about its origins. Molly Sanderson is a freelance journalist working for the Ridgedale Reader and recovering from a miscarriage and the depression that followed. She is unexpectedly is sent to cover the story and she's shocked at the discovery. The case obviously hits close to home and she is determined to find out who is responsible. Memories from her own tragedy resurface, but her determination doesn't waver. Her investigation will delve deeper than she expected into the town's past and unearth secrets thought to be long buried.

Where They Found Her is a well written and multilayered mystery. It's told from the point of view of three women: Molly Sanderson, the freelance journalist with a recent tragedy; Sandy Mendelson, a teenage high school drop out trying to cope with her drug addled mom; and Barbara Carlson, wife of the chief of police and busy body extraordinaire. All three of these women are fully realized with their own voices and points of view. Molly is trying to move forward from her depression by seeking justice for the dead, abandoned newborn. Her story is the most fleshed out with journal entries and transcripts from therapy sessions interspersed between chapters. She lets her personal feelings drive her and refuses to back away when others try to baby her or deter her. I admire her conviction and  rooted for her throughout the story. Sandy Mendelson is also very sympathetic. She dropped out of school to work so she and her mom could live. Her mom is an erratic and irresponsible drug user and alcoholic. It's sucks to live with her mom, but it's what she knows. Who knows how bad foster care would be. She works tirelessly to provide for her mom. I loved the reveal of her mom. She refers to her mom by her first name and they just seemed like roommates until she offhandedly called her mom. The revelation was shocking and put Sandy's life sharply into perspective: her mom's inappropriate sexual behavior, drug use, and irresponsibility with money. The two seemed the same age, showing Sandy's maturity and her mother's immaturity. I just wanted to shake Sandy and tell her to leave and never look back.

This brings us to Barbara. She's the parent I would hate to encounter. She puts a crazy amount of pressure on her kids to be perfect and doesn't care that they are both close to cracking. Quick to criticize others and put everyone else under great scrutiny, she is super offended if anyone suggests she's doing anything wrong. When her son starts acting uncharacteristically violent, she was quick to blame another mom. Then she brought him in to a therapist and she didn't want to listen to him. Her own preconceived notion of what happened had to be the truth no matter what anyone else told her. It was interesting to see into her head and witness her fall from what she thought was above everyone else. The revelations at the end of the novel directly affected her in surprising ways. Long buried secrets reemerged and just shows that even if something is decades in the past, you can never truly be safe from it. If things had been dealt with back then, a lot of lives could have been a lot better.

Where They Found Her is an engrossing mystery that had me constantly reevaluating my predictions and ended up surprising me. My only criticism is some of the red herrings where so obvious that they didn't even seem worth mentioning. Other than that, I greatly enjoyed the novel. I'm a sucker for a small town with lots of secrets. I would definitely read Kimberly McCreight's next book.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins

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