Foxlowe by Ellen Wasserberg

Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg, book jacket
Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg

This atmospheric, creepy novel uses a superb narrative technique. The story is told through the eyes of Green, a young girl who has grown up in an artists commune at Foxlowe.

She has no parents and all is shared equally in the family in a pile called the Jumble.  Green thinks, however,  she belongs to Freya Marsh. Freya, the de facto leader, is an affectionate tormentor who loves and tortures Green.

The family’s actions are compared to a shoal of fish; none of them wants to be “edged” or ostracized. Green feels being “Edged” is worst than taking the Spike Walk–a horrid punishment that Freya invented.

Though the family think they have retreated into safety, real danger lurks through the halls of the ancestral home. Freya takes a baby away from her mother. The Family seems unable to sense the growing moral uncertainty. 

Instead of checking her authority, the family goes along with whatever Freya decides. Thus, when Freya arrives with an infant, the family never questions her origins. They simply welcomes the infant as a new family member. Curiously, Green names the infant Blue.

In order to feel safe from the outside world, the family performs numerous rituals. During the Winter Solstice  they perform the Scattering–a line of salt is poured around the house to protect the house from outsiders. Green, in a fit of jealous, puts the infant outside the salt line, an action that will have serious repercussions . 

Green, Blue, and Toby grow close in the years that follow. The grown believe that they have provided the children with the most magical childhood. They don’t go to school and are not subjected to society’s rules.

The ungrown are not given access to the most basic things e.g. mirrors and cannot leave the grounds or talk to strangers. Green in never given a chance to leave Foxlowe until a tragedy occurs.

Psychologically damaged, Green may never be able to integrate into society.  One of the growns who became a Leaver is determined to give her a chance. Can he help her or will he only make things worst? 

Green is a fascinating yet unreliable narrator in this novel that is both complex and frightening.

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Normal People by Sally Rooney

In this novel, two teenagers avoid each other at school yet are also fiercely, strangely attracted to one other. 

The two come from different worlds. Marianne has a much higher socioeconomic status than Connell. Her parents are barristers whereas Connell is raised by a single Mom. Connell’s mother is, in fact, a housekeeper for Marianne’s parents. 

Due to some quirk on her part, Marianne has a lower social status in school than he does. Connell is a popular football player while she is lonely and ostracized.

In spite of this, the two teenagers come together for secret trysts. Terrified, though, that anyone would find out about their affair, Connell treats Marianne coldly. He invites someone else to the Debs.

At Trinity University, the pair become friends and lovers once again. She is now more popular than he is yet they still struggle to communicate. Their relationship continues to be passionate, volatile, and heart-breaking.

After a misunderstanding, the two start seeing other people. Marianne, intelligent yet damaged psychologically by her family, seeks out boyfriends that are cruel to her. 

Connell feels Helen is a better choice until a funeral at his home town bring his illusions crashing down. 

This novel, which was long listed for a Man Booker prize, will soon become a 12-part half-hour drama on BBC3.

The VanApfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean

The Missing

This debut by Australian author, Felicity McClean, is a tantalizing page-turner. This exciting novel is a mystery and coming-of-age story in one. Tikka remembers her childhood–she grew up in a small Australian river valley.

One incident irrevocably changed the Tikka’s life: the summer of 1992. Her neighbors, Corrie, Hannah, and Ruth, disappeared one fateful day. The police assume its a missing case but Tikka and her sister are withholding information. Tikka knows that the Van Apfel girls were planning to runaway, a fact she kept from police. Years later, as an adult, she wonders if she made the right choice.

She dwells on the Apfel girls’ disappearance to the point where it begins to affect her mental health. As Corrie’s memory consumes Tikka, she begins to see Corrie everywhere, or at least people who that look like Corrie.

McLean has a delightful sardonic wit. She frames the story with the Lindy Chamberlain case, a woman whose baby girl disappears while on a camping trip.

Tikka stages a skit based on the case for a school event the evening of the Van Apfel girls’ disappearance. Just as it had in the Chamberlain case, the Van Apfel case causes many tongues to wag. Characters jump to conclusions about a male teacher.

Many novels focus on missing girls. Julia Phillips’ Disappearing Earth focuses on how a Siberian community reacts to the disappearance of two of their own. 

Though it addresses the self-help industry and single motherhood,  Jaclyn Moriarty Gravity Is The Thing, is also about missing persons. 

Other titles about missing persons:
Lippman, Lauran. Lady in the Lake.
Miranda, Megan. All the Missing Girls.
O’Nan, Stewart. Songs for the Missing