By Marlene Adelstein
Red Adept Publishing, 2018It is a parent’s worst nightmare to lose a child.
To lose a child while shopping with her in a busy mall is unfathomable. Did she run away, was she kidnapped? Is she alive or dead?
After six years, Jesse is still obsessed with her daughter Sophie’s disappearance. She has lost her marriage and her friends, her house is cluttered with found objects that Jesse feels somehow remind of her lost ten-year-old daughter. She drinks too much, can no longer pursue her career as an artist, and, embroiled in an affair with a married man, has lost her self-respect.
And Jesse is not the only one who cannot let go of her grief. Star, Sophie’s best friend, is in full-fledged teenage goth mode. Depressed and anxious, she sees the ghost of Sophie everywhere.
This haunting story has so many moments of emotional truth. What if the missing child was not easy to live with? What if, in addition to her precocious intelligence and fascination with birds, the missing child flew into tantrums when she didn’t get her way? Does knowing this make her mother more anxious when she contemplates the child’s terror if she’s been kidnapped? Make the kidnapper more likely to want to silence the demanding child?
Sophie’s manipulative personality also casts its shadow on Star. She feels guilty that she didn’t want to go to the mall That Day (as it is ever after known) as she’d promised Sophie, because she sensed Sophie was going into one of her melt-down moods.
Marlene Adelstein’s excellent grasp of psychology makes this study in survivor guilt compelling. Sophie is a fascinating child, and her disappearance at the age of ten is probably a loss to future science because Sophie was a brilliant observer of the natural world. Combine this with her parents’ knowledge that they could not handle their child and found her hard to live with at times, and you have the perfect recipe for intensified guilt and self-loathing.
How Jesse and Star separately and then together come to resolve the situation and begin to heal is the crux of this story. This novel has many layers of complexity, remarkable in a debut novel.
I look forward to reading more of Ms. Adelstein’s work.