Where They Found Her /Kimberly McCreight / HarperCollins / published 2015
Kimberly McCreight’s first novel, Reconstructing Amelia, was a bit of a phenom, sitting on the New York Times Best Seller list, being nominated for an Edgar and a couple others, obtained in 17 countries – it was a bit of a thing. I had picked it up at one point but life got in the way and I never got much past the beginning. My guilt over that compelled me to pick up her second novel a a couple of weeks ago.
In a nutshell, this is a thriller that tells multiple stories: one, a dead newborn found in the water and no clue as to her parentage; two, Molly, a woman struggling with a miscarriage and rebuilding her life with a new career; three, a teenage girl with a train wreck of a mother trying to survive her life; and four, the local sheriff, his brittle wife, their overachieving teenage daughter, and their falling-apart young son. Throw in a few side characters for atmosphere and shake. Life in a small town being what it is, the paths of all the players converge and separate and tangle up again as the novel moves toward an answer to the looming question: Whose baby is it, and how did she end up Where They Found Her?
Overall, I thought it was a good story, but I am not a fan of the writing style of this particular novel:
References are made to things that the reader is not yet privy to; once or twice, that’s intriguing, provocative. As often as it happens here, however, it’s frustrating.
Time shifts in odd ways; sometimes a conversation that seems to have just happened turns out to have happened weeks previous.
As Molly investigates the baby’s origins, she posts news items online as a companion to the pieces that appear in the printed paper. Her writing is… Well, every piece felt like something I would expect to see in a high school newspaper, not the town paper. The items definitely have a different “voice” than McCreight’s, but that voice doesn’t seem to fit Molly, either. The online blurbs seem to have been included solely so that the reader has access to the townsfolk’s comments that follow each piece. It felt gimmicky and unnecessary, even when a mini-mystery about those comments is also solved.
Overall, it’s not a bad story, but it felt a little simplistic while also feeling a little cluttered. A lot of characters are introduced at the outset that probably could have been handled with a bit more elegance. There were a few lightbulb moments that were fun as pieces clicked into place, but none of those pieces added up to the gut-punch I was hoping for.