The Girl Who Stayed by Tanya Anne Crosby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Zoe returns to her hometown of Sullivan's Island with one goal in mind: repair her childhood home and sell it, so she never has to come back. Her parents are dead, her brother doesn't want it, and her little sister, Hannah, disappeared from the Island when Hannah was eight and Zoe was ten. At the time, Hannah's friend, Gabi, insinuated that Zoe was responsible for Hannah's disappearance and while she knows it isn't true, Zoe has always felt confused and remorseful about her behavior during the time period when Hannah vanished. Even worse, she grew up under the doubt of her parents, especially her angry father, who seemed to believe Gabi, and with whom Zoe had a rough and rocky relationship as she aged.
This was an interesting book and I confess it had the misfortune of being read during a crazy time for me of illness and work: not its fault. Zoe is a tough character to crack at first, but she's also a victim of abuse, and her slowness to reveal herself--in the book and to others--makes sense. Crosby does a good job of displaying (versus telling) how Zoe's relationship with her parents has formed her into the adult she is today. What I enjoyed is that Zoe is a complicated individual with many layers. I've read too many books lately where a character had a bad childhood or suffered some form of abuse and that seems to be a reason to make them have only one character trait, which they must act upon, with no sign of reason. Zoe is nuanced, even if she takes some time to warm up to.
There are several scenes in the book that are nearly heartbreaking as you read. For instance, when Zoe finds a projector and a bunch of film belonging to her grandfather and manages to splice together enough film to capture a few moments of her late sister as a kid. As she describes the moment, it's powerful, and you can completely picture it. In another scene, she reminisces about how her mother "helped" her fix up Zoe's bathing suit before a first date--an event that ended poorly. This moment is not only formed so clearly, but says so much about how Zoe continued to relate to her Mom. It's very well-done.
The book spends most of its time focusing on Zoe's late second coming of age story (at nearly 40), with a few characters from Sullivan's Island thrown in, but there is a subplot to Hannah's disappearance that picks up pace near the end. The very end of the story felt a little rushed (though exciting). I'm still a bit torn about the actual ending--it sort of pissed me off--but I understand Crosby's choices.
In writing this review, I'd probably push my rating up to a 3.75 stars. It's a different book, and I enjoyed Zoe. I almost wish I could encounter her again.
I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss - thank you! It is available for publication on 4/19/16.
View all my reviews