Title: Cemetery Girl
Author: David Bell
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Publisher: NAL Trade
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
While Tom Stuart doesn’t think he has the perfect life with his wife, Abby, and his twelve year old daughter, Caitlin, he doesn’t have many complaints. That is, until Caitlin takes the family dog, Frosty, out for a walk and never comes home. Four years later, Tom and Abby are barely hanging on; Abby wants to accept that Caitlin will never be coming home and move on. However, Tom refuses to give up on his daughter. When Caitlin is finally found, she is not the daughter that Tom and Abby remember.
Cemetery Girl is the story of a parents’ worst nightmare: the disappearance of a child. But what makes this novel worse is that not only does Caitlin disappear, but when she returns four years later, her parents barely recognize her. She refuses to discuss where she has been and what happened to her. It’s clear she has a violent case of Stockholm Syndrome, and as a result, she wants nothing to do with her parents. It’s completely heartbreaking to witness; not only was Caitlin taken from her parents, but when they finally get her back, she does not want to be with them.
I’ll admit I wasn’t sure whether to discuss Caitlin’s return in my summary. After all, I do try to avoid revealing the plot as much as possible, but this was something that was disclosed in the publisher’s summary. Additionally, I felt like it was an important issue to discuss in my review because the thrill at getting Caitlin back is so tempered by the pain of realizing she isn’t happy to be home.
Tom is a character that will have readers yelling at the book, whether in support or frustration. He’s not the type to take things lying down, and is a doer rather than a thinker. He will go to the ends of the earth to protect his daughter, but at the same time, he can’t handle not knowing the truth of what happened to Caitlin while she was gone. He takes some dangerous (and stupid) risks in order to find that information, but I could sympathize with his complete desperation.
Abby, Caitlin’s mother, provides a very interesting twist to the novel. Even before Caitlin’s disappearance, Abby was getting involved in an evangelical church nearby, something which Tom couldn’t understand. At this point, Abby seems completely lost to Tom; he can’t comprehend how, as a mother, she is so willing to give up on her child in order to selfishly move on with her life. It’s a real area of discord between the two, and it’s interesting to see what Caitlin’s reappearance does to them.
Cemetery Girl would make an amazing book club pick, just because there is so much to discuss within its pages. It’s an intelligently written and unexpected thriller, one that is difficult to put down. Readers will ponder over Tom’s motives as they question his methods and wonder where the line is, at what point he is going too far in his quest for knowledge. I was thoroughly impressed with this novel and hope that Bell writes another soon.