First of all I need to say I struggled on how to classify this book. Although the blurb tells us that Emily finds a body in the woods and Ronnie Eastman is missing, this is not a typical crime novel, so I have decided to put it in a category of mystery, but it is really so much more….
Holly Goddard Jones has written a character driven novel which centres on the disappearance of Ronnie Eastman. The search for Ronnie is what propels this story forward but the writing is what captured my attention right from the beginning.
The book starts with Emily, a slightly overweight, friendless thirteen year old girl sat in a classroom doing an English exercise. The writing immediately transported me to that classroom where the, oh so cool and attractive Christopher Shelton, was intent on needling the teacher, poor Emily taking the brunt of his annoyance when Susanna Mitchell reacted. Here we meet the first of countless links to the missing woman, because Mrs Mitchell is the younger sister of the good-time girl Ronnie who hasn’t been in contact for a couple of weeks! After school lonely Emily takes off into the woods where she broods over her day….
“Christopher’s presence at her side was so real to her that she registered embarrassment at the visibility of her exertion, and she couldn’t help calling up the look on his face when he had stopped by her desk that day at school: the disgust, so evident in the curl of his lip, and the spat word, creep, said as though he were ridding his mouth of a foul taste.”
The whole book involves characters who are connected in some way to Ronnie in the small town of Roma. There is an underlying longing in all those we meet for change; from the aging factory worker Wyatt, the school girl Emily, the arrogant smart Christopher, Susanna whose husband Dale takes her for granted and the policeman Tony and at the centre is the ‘party girl’ Ronnie who has a reputation amongst her fellow inhabitants of this classic small town.
The pages are full of domestic details, the petty annoyances of a stale marriage, the casual spoiling of a niece all add a richness to the characters, all of whom are so vivid I felt as if I knew them.
“Of course, Abby, who so loved long hair, was also the child who’d said, ‘Aunt Ronnie’s a princess,’ the time Ronnie came over in her trashiest club-crawling wear and dark purple eye shadow, hair sprayed to the rafters. Susanna laughed at the memory, then swallowed against the tears. How she wanted her sister right now.”
This is a book to savour, to get to know the people and understand their motivations and to be amazed by the perceptive writing rather than a conventional crime novel and I loved it all the more for this.
I received my copy of this book from Amazon Vine in return for my unbiased opinion on this fantastic book.