If You find Me by Emily Murdoch
Published by St Martins Griffin
4.5 out of 5 Stars
Released March 2013 on Ebook, paperback, hardback and Audiobook. Pre-Order yours here
Every now and again a book comes along that leaves you breathless. If You Find Me is that book of 2013. Not my usual genre, but the story is so heartfelt and harrowing that you just cannot like it. ‘Like’ may not be the best word, how can you like a story that is based around so much pain?
IYFM is about 14 year old Carey and her younger sister Jenessa, their mother kidnapped Carey 9 years ago (and had Jenessa later on), taking them to live in the Tennessee woods. The story begins with Carey and Jenessa in the woods, having not seen their mother for almost two months, they hear someone coming, and are met by a strange man and a social worker. They discover that their mother has left for good, alerting social services to their location, the man is Carey’s father. As the story unfolds the reader discovers the true horrors of life in the woods, Carey was sold by her mother in exchange for hits of meth, her mother was not only an addict but also bipolar, and had created a false world for the girls, convincing Carey that her father was violent and forced them to leave.
Given little choice (be separated or go to ‘the mans’ house) they go home with Carey’s father, and begin a new life with his new family (a new wife and step-daughter). Jenessa doesn’t speak to anyone but Carey, and the reader know this is because of a big secret, the book leads the reader to discover the truth at the end of the book.
But this isn’t a happy go lucky, all ends well book, Murdoch has brilliantly handled the return to society for the girls, Jenessa’s instant bond with Shorty (a dog, I’ll leave you to find the reason behind his name) is truly heartwarming, and to see her adapt to ‘real’ life so much quicker than Carey is lovely. Carey has of course been through more (and as the story goes on, you find out more and more about her) and struggles to adjust, to trust the man she believes was violent, to trust the new mother and sister, and to find new friends in a world where she has only every known her sister.
I cannot praise this book enough, I read it in one sitting, and for a debut novel its incredible, there are a couple of parts that are a little confusing for the reader (the house has two rooms ready – how did they know there were two? and Carey mentions her grandmother dying 3 years after they left, but how would they know if they were cut off from society?), but nothing major, just faults you find when you cant really fault the book. There’s not a single unrealistic character, and I think thats because the cast list is kept small, no unnecessary additions to pad the book out – just the essential characters, that make the book so special.
Murdoch has a rare talent for writing human, flawed characters beautifully and making the monster of the story a human, not some mythical monster the reader can detach from. I look forward to further works from this promising author, If You Find Me is a DEFINITE must read, if only to make you appreciate the things you have in life. I won’t be surprised to find this on the best selling lists, and expect there will be film rights optioned quickly.