I read a lot of books about kids going missing. In retrospect perhaps it was for the best that I didn’t have children myself, or I may have been paralysed with fear… worrying about all of the terrible things that could happen to them. Or perhaps I’d be adept at pocketing the stuff I read and watch into some place in my mind – recognising (for the most part) they’re only part of my fictional world.
This debut novel by Jenny Quintana centres around the disappearance of Gabriella and (in retrospect) the impact it has on her family and loved ones in the years that follow.The Missing Girl
by Jenny Quintana
Published by Mantle
on December 27th 2017
Genres: Psychological Thriller
When Anna Flores' adored older sister goes missing as a teenager, Anna copes by disappearing too, just as soon as she can: running as far away from her family as possible, and eventually building a life for herself abroad.
Thirty years later, the death of her mother finally forces Anna to return home. Tasked with sorting through her mother's possessions, she begins to confront not just her mother's death, but also the huge hole Gabriella's disappearance left in her life - and finds herself asking a question she's not allowed herself to ask for years: what really happened to her sister?
Like many similar books, this is actually very much about Anna’s belated (re) investigation into her sister’s disappearance, but I also really liked the way she had to (first) come to terms with the fact she’d pushed the memories from her thoughts for many of the interceding years.
We go back and forth in time, from the early 1980s to now… in the weeks and days before Gabriella’s disappearance to those after. We don’t spend a lot of time with Anna or her family over the intervening years only meeting Anna now, over thirty years after her sister disappeared and though I didn’t feel as if I’d missed a huge chunk of the story, it’s only in retrospect I wonder what happened in between.
I actually quite enjoyed meeting 12yr old Anna. She’s on the cusp of adolescence… just moving out of childhood and starting to become conscious her parents and sister are keeping things from her. In many ways Anna’s devoted to 15yr old Gabriella and even though her sibling is rebelling against her parents and the world in general she obviously cares about her little sister and aware enough to understand how her actions impact on Anna, and she’s sympathetic to Anna’s innocence and wants to protect that.
It’s obvious there are family secrets and though they’re later revealed, we get our first glimpse through the eyes of the young Anna. And of course, in light of her sister’s disappearance, everything and everyone becomes suspicious. And – as we’re reading about events retrospectively we’re similarly nuanced.
I’m actually of a similar age as the two girls, something that didn’t strike me until Quinlan referenced the movie Rocky III and music of Human League. I think that – in particular – offered a kinship with the girls and their lives (and fate) that I very much appreciated.
I’ve read a few macabre books lately and this (mostly) doesn’t go in that direction. It’s more of a mystery to be solved than a book with a sense of menace lurking beneath its pages. I wasn’t worried about Anna’s fate as she (re) visited her sister’s disappearance (and re-meets many of the original players) for example. The reveal at the end is interesting but at the same time I’m not sure the build up and resolution offered the climax I was expecting. (Though I’m not sure what I wanted from my ‘a-ha’ moment.) It’s a believable read however and good debut novel from Quintana.
The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana will be published in Australia by Pan Macmillan on 27 December 2017.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.