Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bookshelf: Emily Arsenault


First let me just say how eye-catching the cover was for me. I was searching for it on a recommendation, but had I just been perusing the shelves I still would have ended up picking it up. Absolutely beautiful cover.
Emily Arsenault's "In Search of the Rose Notes" is about a small town in Connecticut where sixteen years ago a girl named Rose Banks went missing one afternoon. Now, in present day, her body has been discovered. Our narator, Nora returns to her hometown after being away for many years to visit her childhood best friend and trudge down memory lane to that horrible time in their pre-teens when their beloved babysitter disappeared.
Nora's history is... complicated. She was always a quiet girl, but sometime after Rose disappeared she started to disapear, to become a wallflower in every aspect of her life, and in high school made a failed attempt at suicide in an effort to get noticed by family and friends. Always labeled as weird she moved away after high school and got married and became a teacher in New Jersey. But something about Rose's disappearance was always niggling the back of her mind and when she returns she tries to uncover the truth.
Charlotte, Nora's childhood friend, is a type-A personality. She's bossy, a now-it-all, and a bit of a mess, now a teacher at their old high school. She always thought Nora knew something about that day and in the weeks after Rose's disappearance went through her Time Life books and forced Nora to hunt along with her for possible clues. They visited the woods where Rose disappeared and recorded the noise to see if Rose's ghost would tell them anything.
Arsenault takes us from 1990 (the year Rose disappeared) and back to the present repeatedly, in an effort for Nora to remember things she'd seen and heard that might uncover the truth. All of Nora's memories of that time revolve around the Time Life books that Charlotte had. When Rose was babysitting them they often imagined traveling to the places they read about, haunted mansions in Scotland, Easter Island (which Noras was especially interested in). They often argued over whether the things discussed in the books were possible. Was magic real? How could the Druids have moved those gigantic stones? Charlotte and Nora loved Rose and the afternoons they spent together, but when Rose disappeared, and their childhoods came to an abrupt hault, their lives and relationship inevitably changed.
Arsenault had me guessing until the end. I made predictions, based on Nora's memories and things that stuck out as odd to me, but I was still guessing until the last chapter when the truth was revealed. "In Search of the Rose Notes" is not a heart-pumping thriller, so if that's what you enjoy reading then this isn't for you. What I loved about the book was how real the discussions were between the girls as children. It felt real, the memories read like something young girls would experience. And though the things the girls did after Rose's death, like stealing Rose's cat and trying to see what drawings it would step to discover what had happened to Rose was silly, but it's also what kids would do in order to understand what had happened.
All around, a great read. Go out and pick it up!
Happy Reading!

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