All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when she was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as troubled waters.
When Imogene is seventeen, her father, now a famous author of medical mysteries, strikes out in the middle of the night and doesn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. She decides to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of her father’s books to track down a woman she’s never known, in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life.
Rebecca Podos’ debut is a powerful, affecting story of the pieces of ourselves that remain mysteries even to us – the desperate search through empty spaces for something to hold on to.
Now THIS is how you do a YA mystery. It’s not a crime-thriller-murder-type mystery – more of a quieter, but no less fascinating tale of one girl’s search for her missing parents.
You get older, and you make your choices, and one by one the doors shut.
Firstly, the writing is so refreshing and just drew me in. I was scrolling through some of my eARCs, looking for something to catch my attention – and catch it this book did – hook, line and sinker.
Secondly, I adore the practicalities that are outlined in Imogene’s search for her father. She knows that she’s not smarter than the police, or that she’s going to magically find something that they missed – despite her wishful thinking.
I’ve stumbled on a problem that never seems to stop detectives in books: teenage poverty.
The depiction of relationships were also masterfully done. The somewhat tense relationship Immy has with her step-mother, who is trying her best – and the resolution that they find together. The relationship between Immy and her best friend Jessa, which at first appears rather shallow and one of mutual convenience and need, rather than true friendship – but which develops into one of support and companionship, despite their vast personality differences. The crush Immy has on Jessa’s older brother, which doesn’t go anywhere, but is celebrated for what it is – a crush.
A crush is not a contract. I am obligated to do nothing more than feel all my feelings and then close them up and put them back on the shelf, to be taken out and revisited like any familiar story that feels safe precisely because the ending never changes.
Despite the serious subject matter, there’s a wonderful amount of dry, deadpan humour.
Neither of them found a document titled “Where I Am” by Joshua Scott. Nor did they find a roadmap marked with a big red X in his desk drawers.
It’s a novel about longing, and things lost and found – and the way in which mental illness can cause a parent to check out of their duties. It’s about coming to terms with the family that we have and the family that we make.
And it’s surprisingly, unexpectedly, wonderfully profound.
I get closing up your heart because you’re afraid to look inside and find out it’s hollow. I get choosing to be alone because you’re afraid that if the choice is out of your hands, you’ll simply be lonely, and alone is okay, it’s almost cool, in a way. But loneliness isn’t just being alone.
ARC received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.