Saturday, May 20, 2017

How Not to Disappear, by Clare Furniss

A story of two women -- Hattie and Gloria.  Hattie is alone at home for the summer, feeling abandoned.  Her friends are elsewhere and even her Mum has gone off with her boyfriend.  And the timing couldn't be worse:  she’s pregnant and she doesn’t know what to do. 

Then a strange call comes.  Hattie, it seems, has a great aunt, who’s dying, suffering memory loss, and wants to see her.  Hattie doesn't really have any interest, but she's not doing anything else anyway, so she visits out of curiosity.  The initial meeting does not go well.

Gloria is maddening.  Messy, distracted, arrogant, and losing her memory, she is dismissive and rude to Hattie.  But as Hattie is about to leave, she utters some fateful words to the older woman and a strange bond is formed.  Gloria insists that she knows something that Hattie needs to know, but Gloria is reluctant to just blurt it out.  Instead, she asks Hattie to take her on a road trip.  Hattie, both intrigued and bored, agrees to take her.  During that trip, the story unfolds through flashbacks.

I liked the idea of this story of two women from different generations uncovering family secrets and seeing how their lives are intertwined.  I also like the depth of the characters and the scope of the story.  The overall tone was a bit more mature than I expect for a YA/NA novel, and I suspect it really isn't intended for teens.

I did find it uneven and drawn out.  As tends to happen for me, I enjoyed the historical flashbacks more than the contemporary scenes.  Gloria's story is far more interesting than Hattie's and the characters from the past more developed that Hattie's contemporaries.  The novel is long and might have benefited from paring down Hattie's contributions.  It also drags since it relies on Gloria’s reluctance to divulge her secrets, a behavior that starts to seem tedious after a while.

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