If You Find Me is off my beaten path of regular reads. I tend to lean towards a wide range of supernatural, fantasy, sci-fi type stories (Dune is one of my all time favorites and lately I have been obsessed with Hodkin’s Mara Dyer Trilogy), but I have been trying to broaden my horizons reading books with real world perimeters. After being so pleasantly surprised by my last choice, I decide to give another more realistic book a shot, If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch.
If You Find Me is firmly anchored in reality. The story is told from the first person perspective of Carey, a teenage girl whose mother kidnapped her a decade ago and “raised” her in a rundown camper in the woods. I put raised in quotes, since her contribution to Carey’s rearing was minimal at best, and devastatingly neglectful the rest of the time. She was a meth addict who would disappear for days at a time, put Carey in dangerous situations, and eventually gave birth to a second daughter, Jenessa, who Carey became primarily responsible for raising. Her entire life Carey has been convinced that they have to live hiding out in the woods so her abusive father will not find them. That is until the day her father, who has been searching for her since her mother took her, and a social worker find the her and Jenessa in the woods and begin to reveal the truth about her kidnapping.
Carey has truths of her own that she will eventually reveal, like what happened to her while living in the woods all those years and why Jenessa has stopped speaking, but not until she is able to feel safe, a concept that has been foreign to her for a very long time. The entire book works up to that point, with Carey’s traumas being in the past, and an effort towards healing in the present. As Carey and Jenessa try to adjust to a new life in the outside world with Carey’s father, his new wife, and his stepdaughter, it becomes even more obvious how difficult their life has been, but the reveal is in no way heavy handed. In fact, the subtly with which Murdoch deals out bits and pieces of what Carey endured is heartbreakingly effective. There is something much sadder about a young girl who has come to accept a life without the guarantee of safety or basic necessities than one who whines about how bad things were. The way that Carey thinks about her life and what had become normal to her before being rescued will definitely pull at your heartstrings.
I liked Carey as a narrator both for the way she spoke (kudos to Murdoch for making her come across as stubborn but likable, strong but fragile. Read my interview with her for more on this), and because of the complexity of her emotions. Even as she learns the truth about her mother it’s clear that Carey still feels love for her. She does not immediately view her mother as a villain and her father as a savior. Instead, she’s conflicted between the love she has for her mother and the pain her mother has caused, an honest and real reaction for someone in her position.
I also like that as strong as Carey was, there were times when dealing with her new life that she felt like it might be easier to just go back to the camper in the woods. Of course she realizes that in reality it would not be better, but the feeling is there and it’s something completely relatable for anyone who has ever faced a difficult and emotional change. Despite that, Carey continues to endure. As she is able to admit to what she has expereinced, both to herself and others she begins healing, the books’ strongest theme in my opinion.
I don’t like reading other people’s reviews before I pick up a book (I feel like they taint my viewpoint for my own review), so I walked into this book the same way I always do, with nothing more than the publisher’s summary. From that I was expecting more of mystery element to If You Find Me, with a Nancy Drew style character trying to discover the truth about her past. I was wrong… and I am kind of glad I was. If You Find Me turned out to be a beautiful story of strength and healing that I enjoyed from start to finish, and if you are anything like me, the emotional journey that Carey experiences will break your heart and put it back together again, leaving you with a feeling of hope and satisfaction at its end.