I’ve been in a little bit of a reading slump in this new year. Nothing seems to have grabbed my attention and held it. However, Friday, I was looking for something to read over the long weekend and I picked up The Lost Girls by Heather Young. I was attracted by its menacing, dark blue cover, and the fact that it is a multi-generational story. The Lost Girls is told from two points of view – that of Lucy and her great-niece Justine.
Justine is a little lost herself. She lives in San Diego with her two daughters and a boyfriend she picked up after her long-time partner, and father of her children, left without warning. Her new boyfriend, Patrick, is a control freak and a master manipulator. Justine, whose childhood was tumultuous, seems to feel that his manipulation is the price she must pay for finally being loved. The night he stages a robbery to see if he can scare her into thinking something has happened to him scares her, but she probably would have continued justifying his behavior. The next day, though, she finds out that Aunt Lucy has died and left Justine her house on a remote lake in Minnesota. Justine packs up her daughters and drives cross country to the house, trying to leave no clues behind her as to where she has gone. She arrives in the middle of a Minnesota winter and begins to try and rebuild her life.
Lucy’s story was much more compelling. Her baby sister, Emily disappeared on the last day of the summer of 1935. Nothing has been seen of her since. It is assumed that Emily tried to run away and perished in the deep woods around the lake. However, Lucy begins her memoir by writing about the beginning of the summer. From a well-to-do family, Lucy is eleven years old and feels like her older sister and friend, Lilith is slipping away from her. She hopes that their annual summer at the lake will help them reconnect. In truth she spends the summer watching as Lilith grows further and further away from her. She begins to befriend her younger sister, the previously despised Emily, and makes friends with a boy from the lodge at the lake. She continues describing the long summer, culminating in Emily’s disappearance.
Ms. Young’s descriptions of the lake were lovely. Justine and her daughters arrive in the dead of winter, just before Christmas, and the reader can feel the cold seeping through every crack in the dilapidated house. The lake is frozen so hard that a car can be driven on it, something this Texas girl has a hard time imagining. Lucy’s story takes place in the summer, and the cookouts, swimming parties, teenagers hanging out, and the heat come alive. Ms. Young is very adept in setting the atmosphere of her novel and the summer of Lucy’s story contrasted with the winter of Justine’s is very effective.
Published in August of last year, The Lost Girls, is Ms. Young’s first novel. I hope we see more from her soon.