Saturday, July 20, 2013


It’s an idyllic New England summer, and Sadie is a precocious only child on the edge of adolescence. It seems like July and August will pass lazily by, just as they have every year before. But one day, Sadie and her best friend play a seemingly harmless prank on a neighborhood girl. Soon after, that same little girl disappears from a backyard barbecue—and she is never seen again. Twenty years pass, and Sadie is still living in the same quiet suburb. She’s married to a good man, has two beautiful children, and seems to have put her past behind her. But when a boy from her old neighborhood returns to town, the nightmares of that summer will begin to resurface, and its unsolved mysteries will finally become clear.

Paperback336 pages
Published July 2nd 2013 by Washington Square Press
eGalley received from publisher via NetGalley 

Where to Find The Longings of Wayward Girls: 

Where to find Karen Brown: 

Let me preface my part of the review by saying that my reactions to these characters are due to the fine writing by Karen Brown. If she hadn't written them so well, I most definitely wouldn't feel as strongly as I do...Her writing is definitely stunning. Truly. I am impressed with how she wrote the two vastly different time periods (early 2000's versus the 1970's) and made each feel equally authentic. I think this would have to require so much research and time and effort put into it, and for me it showed. 

Sadie's character was maddening. As a child she was often mean-spirited and spiteful and insecure and in need of her mother. Karen Brown really captured the essence of that selfish place in our youth--where we do those selfish, mean things not really thinking about the pain we are inflicting on others.  Sadie as an adult was depressed and sad. Not only did she carry the burdens of her love-lacking childhood but she felt that her husband didn't really understand the pain she carried after a significant loss.  She seemed to be walking around in this numbed state --intentionally and unintentionally--and all I really wanted to see happen was that she get help. The help she eventually found came through a group of friends and a waterhole, community theater, and Ray--a neighbor from her childhood. Unfortunately one of those choices was exceedingly bad...I'll leave you to figure out which one it was.

I struggled a lot with Sadie, too. She had justifiable reasons for being the way she was, and we found out what they were every bit piece by piece. Small town life seemed to be smothering for her, and all of the things that she was involved in was always in the forefront of her mind waiting to overwhelm her. She saw the ghosts of the past and present everywhere, and I too just wanted even one person to notice and help her out of the darkness that she seemed to be slipping in to. 

The secondary characters in this book were really no help in Sadie's attempt to evolve from her pain to something better. Her childhood friends were either equally mean or they humored her when they shouldn't. Her adult friends were so clueless about her internal struggles or so uncomfortable with dealing with anything remotely painful that they had no ability to help her move on to a happier mental place. Her husband, well meaning sometimes, was all to eager to quickly move on to happier times and took her silence as acceptance or didn't want to or know how to deal with her depression. 

She was quite the queen bee when she was a child, huh? I almost have no words for how surprising some of her actions were, even as a 12 year old. Kinda scary, and gave me a creepy vibe as to how things would turn out. Her family goes through a very emotional trauma in the present and let her go on pretending that if she didn't address the problem that it did not exist. 

The story was a series of flashbacks and present day scenes that were troubling. There were very few happy memories or moments to be revealed, mostly just a sense of melancholy. And maybe that's where I had a little trouble falling in love with this novel--it was just too real. Too melancholy. Too much like the world we inhabit--with failure and sadness and poor choices. I appreciated the ending and it gave me hope for a better life for Sadie; but after being hammered with her depression for most of the book it almost felt like it was too little, too late. I also had a little trouble with the missing girl's (Laura) story line--I wondered sometimes why it was there and sometimes the densely packed details overwhelmed me. 

While I haven't read the book version, which is probably a mortal sin to admit here, I have watched The Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood movie, and I was reminded of it throughout here. Especially the parts of Sadie and her mother Clare, and how much her mother's actions and behavior is still effecting Sadie's mind in the present. It was very melancholy, and sometimes very difficult to be solely inside Sadie's head. As ever a deep thinker, I was reminded a lot of how much our parents live before we become part of their lives and all of the things we don't know about them. Does that ever weird anybody else out? Just me? 

One final random thought: The cover was beautiful. 
The cover is great! It is what first drew me in, so fantastic job there. For this work of literary fiction, you will not find a fast paced story, but it was a poignant look into some of the darker parts of our world. 

Shelley: 3 1/2 Stars
Courtney: 3 Stars

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