Book Review: The Longings of Wayward Girls

The Longings of Wayward Girls, TheSemi-Spoiler Alert!

If you enjoy mysterious thrillers then you came to the right place. Think of this novel as a tightly wound up ribbon baton that slowly unravels as the chapters alternate from the year 1979 to 2003. The most chilling part of this novel is when author, Karen Brown, notes how the missing of a young girl is based on a true story. One that takes place in a town called Wintonbury in Connecticut.

In The Longings of Wayward Girls, the main character Sadie and her best friend play a cruel trick on a girl in town named Francie. It is 1979 and Sadie is 12 years old. She pretends to be a boy who is interested in Francie and for months they write to each other without meeting face-to-face. The fun and games come to an end when Francie goes missing and Sadie is the one to blame because the last letter she wrote stated, “The time has come for us to escape. Can you meet me just before midnight on the 4th?”

This book is uniquely structures because it flashes forward to 2003 and the young girl who went missing in 1979 never appeared.In these chapters Sadie is much older, married, and has two children. The climax of this novel is when Sadie’s past catches up to her when she has an affair with Ray, her childhood crush and discovers how his sister was involved in the disappearance of the young girl, Francie. However, when Sadie ends the affair with Ray, he writes her a letter where he admits he had an affair with her mother when he was a teenager and hands off the guilt Sadie carries for the rest of her life. He states, “But you weren’t innocent in all of this either, were you? Someone agreed to meet that girl in the woods.”

One feature I admire from this book is the way it is written in poetic prose. Karen Brown won the Grace Paley Prize for short fiction and I can definitely see why. One of the most beautiful lines that describe Sadie’s parents is on page 25 when the narrator states, “Her parents were notorious arguers, their shouting blooming on summer days through window screens, spilling out in tantalizing bits into the neighborhood.” These prose are imbedded within the text and poetry writers such as myself, notice the small details the author is trying to convey.  Another feature I noticed is how there is multiple foreshadowing in the chapters when it is 1979 that tie in with what is discovered in the chapters when it is the year 2003. For example, one morning Sadie found Ray near her house and after her walk in the woods she finds her mother on the porch out of breathe, then slaps Sadie for being in the woods by herself. Chapters later, when its 2003 Sadie’s elderly neighbor confesses, “I saw him that summer before I left for the shore- slipping into your basement.” And this is when I realized another form of foreshadowing because when Sadie and Ray were making love, he whispered Sadie’s mothers name, Clare, into her ear.

For those interested in this book, I must say it is difficult to keep up with the alternating chapters because you could be reading about a scene in 1979 and before you know it, it’s 2003 and the characters changed. Other than that, I would recommend this book to those who would like to immerse themselves into the unknown mysteries that happened in the woods of Connecticut. Because as the main character states, “everything has its shadowy side.”

Diana Romero