Sunday, Aug 7, 2016
Laura McHugh's second novel does not disappoint. Set in Keokuk, Iowa, this novel tells the story of Arden Arrowood, who has inherited her family's stately old home, where she hasn't set foot since she was a child. Arden's grandparents have owned the house and held it in a trust for years, keeping it maintained and intact. Now that her father has passed away, the house is Arden's. Her mother doesn't think it's a good idea to move back, but Arden can't resist. She's stuck, and she has no way to move forward without starting at Arrowood - the house her sisters disappeared from so many years ago. Arden must wrestle with her memories and her scanty knowledge of her parent's lives back then, in an effort to locate her missing sisters. She is prodded along by Josh Kyle, who runs Midwest Mysteries - a website dedicated to investigating famous cold cases. He wants to work with Arden, to use her, to show that the man suspected of the crime all these long years was actually innocent, his life ruined by Arden's childhood accusations. Arden is determined to see it through and to find answers one way or another, despite her mother's discouragement. While the ending is a surprise, it isn't dark or sinister, but nor is it neat and tidy. The answer isn't what Arden expects, and even after, she isn't sure about what happened. She just can't really remember. So we, and Arden, are left to wonder just what happened, and who was responsible.
Readers may note some similarities to Gillian Flynn's Dark Places; a famous crime, a lone survivor with a faulty memory, and a secret club obsessed with true crimes. The difference lies in the main characters. Flynn's Libby is unreliable and uses her tragedy for self gain when she can. Her flaws are a large part of her character. McHugh's Arden is in it to find her missing sisters, and maybe jog her memories. She's stuck in the past, but has come back to the family home in an effort to come unstuck, to move forward. McHugh's novel is less psychological thriller, and more of a walk through childhood memories and nostalgia as Arden lays to rest her family tragedy.