REVIEW: SOPHIE LAST SEEN, BY MARLENE ADELSTEIN

 

Six years ago, ten-year-old Sophie Albright disappeared from a shopping mall. Her mother, Jesse, is left in a self-destructive limbo, haunted by memories of her intense and difficult child, who was obsessed with birds. Trapped in her grief and guilt, Jesse stumbles through her workdays at a bookstore and spends her off hours poring over Sophie’s bird journals or haunting the mall to search for the face of her missing child.

When Star Silverman, Sophie’s best friend, starts working at the bookstore, Jesse is uncomfortable around the sarcastic teen, who is a constant reminder of her daughter. But Star has secrets of her own, and her childhood memories could be the key to solving Sophie’s disappearance.

With help from Star and Kentucky “Tuck” Barnes, a private detective on the trail of another missing girl, Jesse may finally get some closure, one way or the other.

My Thoughts: From the first pages of Sophie Last Seen, I was caught up in the emotional life of her bereft mother, Jesse. Sadly, the town has now stopped caring about Jesse and her loss, and the isolation she feels drives her to make even more bad choices.

Men, alcohol, and her hoarding of items that seem to be messages from Sophie keep Jesse slightly off-center. Her ex-husband is pushing her to sell the house, but she can’t imagine giving up Sophie’s home or even packing away all the precious objects that are reminders.

But there are more secrets that slowly come to the surface, and Jesse will have to confront what is really keeping her captive in the past and in her grief. Star is another one with dark secrets. Will she finally share them? Will answers come to both of them?

How Sophie’s notebooks and the birding connection led the characters to answers kept me intrigued throughout. There was also a mystical undercurrent that brought hidden dimensions and the ability to move on. 5 stars.

***
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Review: The Headmaster’s Wife, by Thomas Christopher Greene

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At the heart of The Headmaster’s Wife is the role family, tradition, and expectations play in the unfolding of our lives.

For generations, the Winthrop patriarchs have been headmaster of this small prep school in Vermont. Lancaster is steeped in its proud traditions, and almost as if there is no choice in the matter, the roles are passed down from father to son.

Arthur Winthrop and his wife Elizabeth are living in the lovely and welcoming home provided for the headmaster, and their lives are set in certain ways. Their routines mark their days.

But as our story opens, in a section called Acrimony, Arthur is narrating in his first person voice, and what we are learning seems incredible. The tale alternates between Arthur’s version and a third person account that seems to be taking place in a Manhattan police station.

Before we can even sense the accuracy of what occurs, we are brought into the section called Expectations, and Elizabeth’s perspective is revealed.

Was their destiny set for them because of their choices? Or were the traditions and expectations of others responsible for what transpired for the characters? How do grief and the frightening events of the 21st Century affect Arthur and Elizabeth as their lives seemingly implode?

In the end, in the section called After, some more revelations and mysteries of the past are resolved, and there is a hopeful aura that surrounds the characters.

This story was difficult to review, as so many potential spoilers lurk around every corner. Suffice it to say that whatever you thought might happen, you will be surprised. I think that I will recall and reflect on these events and these characters for a long while. 5 stars.