Wednesday 24 July 2013

'If You Find Me' by Emily Murdoch (*****)

This book is special to me, not only because it is singularly one of the best modern books I have read, but because it is the first book sent to me by Fierce Fiction which is now becoming an invaluable part of my life. No one but book lovers will understand me when I say that a little package arriving for you with a surprise book inside is one of the best presents you will ever receive after a long day at school or when you come back from holiday, and this book was the first of many surprises that has come my way since I joined their amazing blogging circle.

'If You Find Me' is a beautiful coming-of-age novel depicting the changing lives of fourteen year old Carey and her six year old sister Jenessa Blackburn, set in North-East Tennessee, deep in the forest they live in dubbed, 'The Hundred Acre Wood'. This immediately told me plenty about what the story was going to be about: horrific, disturbing events hidden by seemingly childlike innocence. One thing I found with the characters of Carey and Jenessa was that I learnt more and more about them throughout the book, in every single chapter, on every single page. At the beginning of the book you see them how outsiders view them and although you feel sympathetic towards them, you cannot understand them and therefore you feel uncomfortable with Carey narrating. However as the story progresses and as more characters grow in understanding about the girls, with Carey in particular, you feel as though you know them and you are standing beside them as they experience things they haven't before in the world that was hidden from them before.

'Money' is such an ugly word to describe one of the key themes of this enchanting book, but unfortunately it is the root of the story, right from the first paragraph. That, in my opinion, is the magic of this book: the way that everyday problems and troubles that affect people from all around the world are woven together with beautiful language and Murdoch's carefully crafted plot to be transformed into something that can be solved with the simple things in life which are identity, love and family.

Concerning the colloquial way that Carey speaks, I can imagine that the thoughts about this is a very mixed bag. You would think that the way Carey speaks would be extremely aggravating to deal with for 289 pages, but surprisingly the way it is written makes you want to mouth Carey's words with you lips and taste the delicious sounds they make, the stories they tell. As for the structure of the book, it is strange to see the character's world fall apart in only the first chapter, but Murdoch makes it work, along with the perfect balance of pace and tone.

Jenessa is a character that could be easily overlooked, though I found her character extremely complex and immediately after she was introduced to me I wanted to find out more about her. The way Murdoch wrote through Carey made me feel protective over Jenessa, and I found myself relating to Carey in all sorts of ways as the plot thickened and more secrets and lies were uncovered.

As the tension built towards the last few chapters I had to literally force myself not to skip to the end and finally find out what had happened that had caused Jenessa to lose the one thing that supposedly no one can ever take away from you: your words. Throughout the book I was smiling, laughing, crying and sometimes even boiling with anger... Murdoch left no emotion untouched. I have never read a book that is so heartbreaking yet humorous, bewitching yet beautiful, but now thanks to Emily Murdoch I've found that book.

Most importantly, the one thing I've learnt from reading this book is that sometimes the things that people don't say are more important.