Saturday, January 07, 2012

Book 76: Cemetery Girl

This was kind of an odd book for me - Tom, the narrator, is the father of an abducted girl.  It has been four years since her disappearance, and in order to gain closure, his wife has decided to have a memorial ceremony for their daughter Caitlin.  Tom has never believed that their daughter is dead, and this memorial is basically the final straw that finally breaks their fragile marriage.  However, shortly after this, the police find Caitlin, now a surely 16 year old.  While Tom is happy that he was right, he soons finds that living with this daughter whom he doesn't even recognize is almost worse than living with the uncertainty of her fate.
The rest of the novel deals with Tom's questions about what happened, and while at first, the reader also wants these answers, at some point, his obsession becomes alienating.  It quickly becomes clear that after four years of captivity, Caitlin has developed a case of Stockholm syndrome and is in love of her kidnapper.  Tom is unwilling to let this go, and investigates despite the police, his daughter and his wife's wishes.  Tom's descent from likable character to man driven to edge is hard to watch, and as a result, this novel was kind of difficult.  I can't quite say I liked it - I could understand Tom's desire to understand what happened to his daughter, but there was also a degree of possessiveness about it that was rather off-putting.  Basically, it seemed like his desire to know what happened to his daughter had less to do with his desire to help her and had more to do with some type of wounded male pride.  Tom is also rather suspicous - in the beginning he describes that he feels like there was something untrustworthy or risk-taking in Caitlin that may have led to her disappearance, at other times he lashes out against his brother.  Some of this appears to be due to his relationship with his step-father.
Bell also explores some of the different agencies involved in disappearances and cases, and paints a rather grim picture of some of these services.  Even victim advocates have a certain agenda of their own, and it may not always match what the victim or their family need.  I am not sure if I would recommend this book or not - while it was interesting to see the father's take on this (especially after reading Room), this novel turned into more of a thriller rather than an exploration of how a family might deal with this situation.  I'd say I'm mostly ambivalent, but I think that's because the novel started strong.  I didn't really like where it went though.

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