Published by St. Martin's Griffin on March 26, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery/Thriller
There are some things you can’t leave behind…
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.
Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.
Characters don’t get much better than Carey. So many times I wished I could reach through the pages to hug her and tell her how proud I was of her. She reminded me of Jennifer Lawrence’s character from Winter’s Bone. (If you like this book, you should see that movie.) Carey is a young girl who was dealt a horrible hand in life: unbelievable poverty, a meth-addled mother, and an absent father. She is also forced to be the caretaker for her mute younger sister. A terrible event in Carey’s life is hinted at – something that caused her sister, Nessa, to stop speaking and that Carey is determined to keep secret. The secret slowly reveals itself to the reader, even before Carey comes clean. As I progressed through the book, I hoped I was wrong, even though I knew there was no other possible answer.
I’ll admit that I was worried Murdoch would spoil the magic by heaping more misery upon Carey’s shoulders. That’s a tactic some authors would use to unnecessarily hammer home the point that THIS GIRL HAS SUFFERED. Thankfully, we don’t get that. The primary new roadblock set in Carey’s path is an obnoxious stepsister. I also hoped Murdoch would not throw a big twist onto the end that would negate some of the beautiful story. We’ve all read enough books to have a certain level of expectation for this, right? There’s a secret baby! Carey’s methed-out mother is actually the President of the United States! Shorty is really a cat! (OK, that last one might have been fun.) Fortunately, this doesn’t happen. There is one little surprise at the end, but it’s presented in a very subtle, matter-of-fact manner.
Murdoch makes us feel everything that Carey experiences – the good, the bad, and the very, very bad: the smells of the campfire and Carey’s pee-stained coat, the bitter cold of her trailer, her fear of her newly-found father, and most of all, her fierce love and devotion for her sister that drive every move that Carey makes.
It’s hard to single out a favorite scene but I’ll go with this: near the end of the book with Nessa and Shorty. It was full-on happy tears time for me. If you’ve read this, let me know if this scene choked you up, too.
If You Find Me is the best book I’ve read in quite some time. Just for a little perspective, a few of my recent reads are: The Book Thief, The Fault In Our Stars, and Just One Day. As much as I loved those books, If You Find Me blows them all away.
Review posted at Goodreads