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.
(Summary from GoodReads)
The summary of If You Find Me that I first looked at made me think it might be a thriller or suspense novel, but it’s actually closer to a contemporary or realistic novel. I actually thought this would be unlike anything I’ve read and while I was mostly write, it shared a few elements with the film Winter’s Bone. For the most part I enjoyed If You Find Me, even though parts of it were a bit melodramatic.
Carey and Jenessa’s story is a tough one to read: they’ve lived a life without a lot of modern amenities, and they don’t entirely realize that they deserve better. Their mother isn’t a great parent, and they have to go through a lot of rough transitions to get a better life. While some of these elements are enough to make a person’s stomach turn, they make Murdoch’s story feel all the more real.
Murdoch is skilled with prose, but I felt that her plot needed work. It became clear fairly quickly what the big twist in this book was. I wanted to feel compelled by it, yet the way it was executed lacked emotion towards me. When it was described, the amount of emotional distance that the narrator used didn't feel quite right to me. Some of the relationships in this book also felt contrived.
I read If You Find Me quite quickly, and for the most part, I found it satisfactory. Murdoch knew the setting where her story took place, and the atmosphere was great. Even though it didn’t totally satisfy me, she did enough things right that I’m hoping to pick up more books by Murdoch in the future.