by Megan Abbott
As I said in yesterday's It's Monday! What are You Reading post:
To call this a story about a missing child tho is quite misleading. It is much more. With its 13 year old narrator it has all the earmarks of a coming of age story but I'm not quite sure it is that or at least not only that. It is like reading a dream.Then yesterday I started reading The End of Everything by Megan Abbott and it took over my life. Let me suggest that starting a book that features a missing child is not a recommended bedtime activity.
Well the intensity did not let up. The use of language, image and metaphor is as lyrical and enfolded as the best poetry so I'm sure this will reveal more of itself the more often it is read.
I am more inclined to classify it wholeheartedly as a coming of age story now but I would apply the YA to it with reservations for any child under 15. But then maybe that is because I am thinking of the 13 year old I was in the 1970s. This story is about the loss of innocence and I can see how it might help a traumatized or too world-wise 12 or 13 year old process but at 13, even 15 this story would have taken my innocence.
It seems to be a meditation on the Freudian Electra complex--the tendency of the young female psyche to be fixated on the father figure(s) in her life and sometime confuse what she feels for them with the feelings she is developing for the young men she is free to have 'romantic' feelings for.
[umm. hmm. This might explain my intense infatuation with Captain Kirk between 11 and 14. I guess that was safer than if my focus had turned to someone in my life. But that's another post entirely.]
Lizzie is the 13 year old narrator and it is her best friend, Evie, who goes missing too coincidentally with the disappearance of a local businessman who lives a few blocks away in the suburb in which Lizzie and Evie grew up across the street from each other nearly as tight as twins--even dressing identically at times.
Lizzie's parents have split and her contact with her own father is mostly by awkward long distance phone calls. Evie's Dad has taken on some of the father-figure role with her by default. Evie has a sister, Dusty, three years older whom the girls both worship and fear and, especially Evie, hold fierce rivalry issues with. Dusty has a very close daddy's girl relationship with her father that Evie seems to resent.
But after Evie disappears both Dusty and their mother withdraw to their rooms in their grief leaving the distraught father alone with his terror and grief. Lizzie seeing him alone in his yard will cross the street to join him and they spend hours and hours together on the patio, the curb or the downstairs rec room as her feelings for him get more and more confused and intense. He seems oblivious to this....
If I say any more along those lines it will be in spoiler territory.
Meanwhile there are echoes of the same Electra complex in the relationship of Evie with the businessman who might have snatched her. Mr Shaw was their family insurance agent who was often at their home and in hindsight Lizzie had seen evidence that he couldn't keep his eyes off Evie and that maybe Evie was even flirting with him. And once Evie had shown her a bunch of cigarette stubs under a pear tree in their back yard from where anyone standing could see into her upstairs bedroom. She not only did not seem upset by the idea but conspiratorially pleased.
It wasn't until after Evie was gone that Lizzie connected those two things along with the sighting the two girls had had of a car like Mr Shaw's driving past them twice outside the school just before Lizzie's Mom picked her up to go 8th grade graduation dress shopping the day Evie and Mr Shaw both went missing.
Again, heading into spoiler territory. So I think I'll just bow out now.