This short novel tickles the mind from the first page to the last. A childhood event impacts the lives of five young girlfriends and is investigated through the eyes of one of them, Celia.
She comes from a family that lives by rules and familial distance, painting a picture of relationships that don't exist. Her mom has her drinks, only at specific times, schedules her talks with her children, her dad must carry her luggage for her although riddled with arthritic pain. They ignore the son’s dark behavior and descent into drug addiction, making excuses for him until it is too late and he overdoses on drugs and is in a coma. Outwardly, the family presents a kind of Beaver Cleaver picture to the world and pretends to live it, but the reality is totally different.
Trauma affects all of us differently. The way in which these fifth-grade girls react to and deal with a common tragedy, is explored two decades later as Celia tries to deal with her idea of the truth about the day that her best friend Djuna, (one of the five) disappears forever.
Each of the characters has a different memory of the event. Celia, as she revisits her past, has to come to terms with the child she was and it is not the child she remembers. “Was she mean”, she asks her brother, at one point. All of their memories seem to depend on how they handled the tragedy and, among other things, their interrelationships and the cruelties they inflicted upon each other.
Leeann, one of the childhood friends, is a perfect example of the trompe l’oeil the book illuminates for us as to how we look at and interpret what we see. Is anything really what we think it is? They all witnessed the same event but each saw and remembered something different.
Shame, guilt, abuse, lies, secrets and bullying have different consequences for each of the girls. Each views the event and their childhood differently, looking backward. One wonders at times, did the friends really know each other. Their relationships often felt shallow and undeveloped, cruel and too competitive. In so many instances, the inability of the characters to see what is really happening, then and now, shapes their lives.
Many topics for discussion come up, i.e.: friendship, bullying, family abuse, the inability to communicate feelings properly, dysfunctional relationships and an inability to deal with circumstances beyond our control, are just some. As these are brought to the light of day, it is left to the reader to draw his/her own conclusions about the day of the disappearance.
We never really learn whose interpretation of the event is accurate. Is Celia able to put her guilt to rest by confronting her idea of what happened? We are left wondering about what really did happen on that fateful day. We are wondering about the choices the girls made in adulthood. Each of us has to draw our own conclusion, in the end, for nothing is what it seems to be on the surface. Everyone is wearing some kind of a mask to hide behind and we have to discover who they really are and we are left to fill in the blanks, guessing.
This book will make you think.