Their mother roughly disappears for weeks at a time, leaving the girls to cope alone. Survival is Carey’s only priority – until strangers arrive and everything changes…
Let me start by saying, I LOVED this book! It had been sitting on my bookshelf for a good year when I finally decided to pick it up and give it a go. I hadn’t heard much about this novel by Emily Murdoch and must, shamefully, admit that I initially picked it up based on the fact that it sported a beautiful front cover. However, this book is not just a pretty face! In fact, it’s not a pretty anything. The story is dark, twisted and emotionally heart-wrenching and I am not sure that I would advise young teens to read it. With references to hardcore drug use, sexual abuse and rape, this is certainly not a book I would want my teenage children reading (if I had teenage children, or any children for that matter).
‘If You Find Me’ begins in the woods where we meet fifteen -year-old Carey and her young sister Jenessa. Here the two siblings are fighting to survive in freezing conditions, hunting their own food and waiting out the days until their drug addicted mother returns. Aided by a social worker, their father finally finds the sisters and brings them home; an introduction to society that Carey, in particular, finds hard to cope with.
‘The tears flow, hot as the creek in summertime. I don’t know beans about civilized living. My mind feels crowded, like a room with too much furniture, until chair arms and couch legs poke me, cushions and pillows conspire to smother me. There’s no room to move. To think.’
The relationship between the two girls is heartwarming and Emily Murdoch’s writing style enables the reader to feel completely connected to the sisters and what happens to them. Being that much older, Carey is able to remember the true horrors of their time in the woods yet it is Jenessa that she thinks of as she remains selfless throughout.
‘I take Jenessa’s hand as we cross the car park and she leans into me in her usual way. It’s hard to keep my mind from going back to that night, the night we swore we’d never talk about.’
Throughout the book, it is made clear that something happened in the woods. Something that both girls would rather forget but that haunts them everyday. As the sisters adapt to civilized society, start school and even fall in love, the secret of what happened all those months ago tears away at Carey. ‘What happens in the woods, stays in the woods…’ or can it?
Although this book in it’s essence is tragic and heartbreaking, Emily Murdoch interweaves light touches with a young adult feel, including school friends, crushes and parties. These elements, juxtaposed against the harsh realities of what happened back in the woods, make the story all the more gut wrenching yet all the more believable.
Overall a compelling, fast paced story that had me gripped from beginning to end. A not very often awarded, yet completely deserved, five stars!