Monday, June 10, 2013
When She Was Gone by Gwendolen Gross
Published March 2013 by Gallery Books
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for this review
What happened to Linsey Hart? When the Cornell-bound teenager disappears into the steamy blue of a late-summer morning, her quiet neighborhood is left to pick apart the threads of their own lives and assumptions. Linsey’s neighbors are just ordinary people—but even ordinary people can keep terrible secrets hidden close. There’s Linsey’s mother, Abigail, whose door-to-door searching makes her social-outcast status painfully obvious; Mr. Leonard, the quiet, retired piano teacher with insomnia, who saw Linsey leave; Reeva, the queen bee of a clique of mothers, now obsessed with a secret interest; Timmy, Linsey’s lovelorn ex-boyfriend; and George, an eleven-year-old loner who is determined to find out what happened to his missing neighbor.
That first sentence of the publisher's summary will make you think this book is about Linsey Hart and finding out what has happened to her. But read further and really pay attention to the title of the book and you'll find that the book is less about Linsey than it is about what happens in her neighborhood in the time she is gone.
Gross peeks into the windows of several houses in Linsey Hart's neighborhood and tells the stories of their inhabitants, exposing dirty little secrets including bullying, illicit affairs, and teenaged rebellion. Those who don't live in the suburbs like to portray them as homogeneous, every resident fitting into a tidy little stereotypes. But Gross knows better. She knows that beyond those manicured lawns live real people, with real problems that are at once unique and universal. Gross treats her characters with affection even as she exposes their flaws.
I flew through When She Was Gone, enjoying the alternating points of view as Gross moved from household to household, from character to character. Book clubs will find plenty to discuss here including questions of fidelity, faith, and loss.