Cover image for Find me gone : a novel / Sarah Meuleman.
Title:
Find me gone : a novel / Sarah Meuleman.
ISBN:
9780062870704

9780062834652
Edition:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018.
Physical Description:
380 pages ; 24 cm
Abstract:
A successful fashion magazine columnist investigates the mysterious disappearances of Agatha Christie, Barbara Follett, and Virginia Woolf before endeavoring to figure out what happened to a friend who went missing during their teen years.
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Summary

Summary

From Vogue Amsterdam columnist Sarah Meuleman comes a haunting, whip-smart debut novel about second chances and the lengths one young woman will go to keep her dark secrets sealed in the past.

1996. In the sleepy hamlet of Bachte-Maria-Leerne, in the Belgian countryside, the residents are reeling from the disappearance of several young girls. The country is thrown into a state of emergency and even after the killer is apprehended, not all the girls missing are found alive, causing further alarm and political protests in the form of White Marches.

At the local school, St. Martin's High, the devastating news is met more with morbid fascination than fear among its students--except for twelve-year-old Sophie. Unlike her peers, Sophie knows what it's like to be afraid and never truly feel safe. The only time she feels a sense of security and belonging is when she's with her best friend Hannah... if only she could confide her darkest secrets to the girl she admires... the girl whose home life is so very different from Sophie's... the girl whom Sophie wishes she could be more like.

When Hannah begins hanging out at a popular teenage club "The Sloop" and starts dating the charming and clever Damian, Sophie suddenly feels left out. With each day, Sophie notices Hannah drifting farther from her. Before the friends can reconcile, the village is thrown into fresh panic when Sophie fails to return home after a high school dance--and is never seen again.

2014. Hannah is living the life most young women dream of as a successful columnist for a fashion magazine in New York City. But after years of being the party reporter, documenting the revelries of the rich and famous, she craves a deeper subject for her writing. Quitting her job and leaving her former glitzy Manhattan lifestyle for a run-down apartment in Brooklyn, she spends her days writing a biography of three famous authors: Agatha Christie, Barbara Follett, and Virginia Woolf--three women who struggled with family, loyalty, and ambition... three women who one day disappeared without a trace.

As Hannah delves into her research and the lives of these luminaries, she's forced to confront questions she's tried so hard to repress. What happened to Sophie that night? How does a person just go missing, never to be heard from again? Taking readers on an exhilarating journey from the Flemish countryside to New York, Find Me Gone is equal parts thriller and tender coming-of-age story that will leave readers wondering until the final page...

What happened to Sophie?


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Belgian author Meuleman's fascinating, multilayered debut shifts between countries and time periods. After the miscarriage of a much-wanted child, Hannah, a successful society columnist for a high-profile New York fashion magazine, is desperate to change her life. She leaves her husband, quits her job, and moves from Greenwich Village to Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood. Her plan is to write a book about Agatha Christie, Barbara Newhall Follett, and Virginia Wolfe: three writers who "fought their battles, swam against the current, and then disappeared one day." Her research into why these women chose to walk away from their lives stirs up turbulent memories. It seems that her beloved authors are "dragging her back to places she needs to forget. All the way back to" Bachte-Maria-Leerne, the little Belgian town where she grew up. Meuleman skillfully reveals, bit by tiny nuanced bit, the story of Hannah and her best friend, Sofie, who likewise disappeared one day long ago in Bachte. This intelligently written psychological thriller provides much food for thought. Agent: Cecile Barendsma, Cecile B Literary. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

IT'S been 30 years since the publication of Thomas Harris's "The Silence of the Lambs," the suspense novel that pitted the F.B.I. trainee Clarice Starling against the serial killer Hannibal Lecter, showcased them as they bored into each other's psyches and did more to change the genre than any novel until Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" a generation later. To revisit "The Silence of the Lambs" today is to encounter a story that shows its age - not just because of the of-its-era language in which transgender issues are discussed, but because it is something that too few thrillers dare to be in 2018: strictly linear. Harris's book gets its title from Lecter's remorseless probing of a terrifying, and personality-shaping, experience from Starling's childhood - the night she awoke to hear the cries of spring lambs being slaughtered and realized she was powerless to help them. Lecter forces this disclosure as part of a deal: He'll offer clues about a current killer if Clarice provides information about the childhood vulnerabilities that still drive her as an adult. It's unnerving, it's effective and, most transgressively, it's chronological. Harris tells his story with nary a flashback, just unremitting forward momentum right up to the final chapter's climactic taunt - "Well, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?" In its way, "The Silence of the Lambs" is a novel about early trauma - the thing that Lecter, the evil genius, is acute enough to perceive through all of Starling's careful presentational concealment. But it casts only brief, fierce sidelong glances at the past. If it were written today, Clarice's early years would almost certainly get about 100 more pages of play, in chapters that alternate with the present-day case and slow-walk readers through her youth until reaching the incident that is meant to explain everything about who she is now. Ours is an era in which we are all becoming fluent in the language of trauma, post-traumatic stress, recovery and survival, but what is good for humanity may be bad for thrillers. Agreat suspense novel should be, on some level, destabilizing; at least once, even as the narrative propels you onward, you should want to go back to reread a passage that's been completely recontextualized by something you just learned. But today, trauma as a universal motivator has worked its way so deeply into the architecture of many novels that it threatens to become mundane. No matter how many skeletons are unearthed, if the sole purpose of revealing them is to vanquish the darkness with explanatory lucidity, the result is distinctly unthrilling, as if the entirety of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" were now narrated by the loquacious shrink who pops up at the end of the movie. Split timelines - the bad past that explains the bad present - are a genre staple, and the emergence of something awful and long-suppressed is such a consistent motif that it has turned many novels into waiting games: "What exactly happened back then? Tell!" Readers speed ahead not because they're gripped but because they're impatient with so much calculated withholding. If these books become efficient conveyor belts that trundle along with the promise of a tidy little gift bag of answers and rationales right out of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, you may well feel relieved, but you are unlikely to feel disturbed. For a thriller, disturbed is better. ONE of the most exciting things about Sara Gran's the infinite blacktop (Atria, $26) is the way it uses all of these often restrictive neo-conventions to its advantage in order to create a completely original hybrid of mystery, thriller, contemporary noir, dark comedy and postmodern meditation about what it means to be a detective. This is the third in a series of novels to feature Claire DeWitt, the self-professed "best detective in the world," although she is actually closer to Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone if Kinsey had thrown everything away and taken a serious turn toward the dark side. The newest story opens in 2011, as Claire is on the wrong end of a car crash that may be a deliberate attempt to kill her. As Gran hurtles ahead in that narrative, we also leap back to an account of the disappearance of Claire's childhood friend in 1986 Brooklyn and to a third story, of the 1999 case that made her into a professional detective. Gran makes this fragmentation, in which no single story line ever becomes central, feel organic to her main character, who also seems constructed out of jagged shards, and is as dangerous as you'd imagine someone fitting that description might be. She steals cars, pulls knives on people who get in her way and cold-cocks others when they double-cross her, scrawling "CLAIRE DEWITT ALWAYS WINS" on their walls as a flourish. She views life experience as an "infinite blacktop of things you'd regret not knowing later" and her future as "a long series of empty moments that took me down a ... highway to nowhere in particular." We don't know why she's like this; she doesn't either. In fact, nobody in this cold, hard-core, genre-blurring novel can be understood except in analogical terms; even a murderer finds himself bewildered to be "someone who DID things. Someone like the people in detective novels." In "The Infinite Blacktop," all that brings characters together is that they dissociate on the same frequency. For good measure, Gran throws in excerpts from a detection manual that has special meaning for Claire, and a long chunk of a teen-sleuth saga as well. The last quarter of her book takes a plunge into metafiction that is likely to be polarizing. (Note scribbled in the margin: "What IS this?") But it helps that Gran has an engagingly sardonic voice and a sure grip of storytelling basics, even those she is manifestly interested in ignoring or transcending; in particular, the 1999 sections work as a satisfying whodunit/whydunit of which Ross Macdonald probably would have approved. "The Infinite Blacktop" is droll, savage and healthily unsettling, even at moments when it verges on becoming an essay about its own construction. THE ENGLISH novelist Camilla Way may not be the innovative stylist Gran is, but in THE LIES WE TOLD (Berkley, paper, $16), she makes up for it with no-nonsense efficiency. "At first I mistook the severed head for something else. It wasn't until I was very close that I realized it was Lucy's," she begins in 1986. Just a couple of pages later, she leaps to present-day London, where we're immersed in the lives of Clara Haynes and Luke Lawson, a young couple who both work in magazines. Luke has a secret life on the internet (there may be a contemporary thriller in which the role Facebook is assigned is non-malevolent, but it has not yet presented itself). He also has a stalker. He soon goes missing, but let's not linger on that too long, because there's poor decapitated Lucy to consider. The other half of this novel, which alternates timelines throughout, unfolds the plight of Doug and Beth Jennings, who have a bird-murdering, fire-starting 5-year-old bad seed of a daughter. The kiddie sociopath with the thousand-yard glower may be somewhat too easy a go-to in thrillers, but anyone who grew up on mass-market paperbacks for which the cover art was some forbidding version of a blood-spattered, blankly staring broken doll will feel an almost nostalgic connection to this novel. The intrigue of "The Lies We Told" is, at least initially, how and when these two plotlines - the demon seed from 30 years back and the possibly kidnapped boyfriend from right now - are going to knit together. If the answer seems slightly inevitable just from that description, at least Way throws in three or four other questions that become suspenseful in their own right, all of which come under the general heading of "How well do you really know your boyfriend/daughter/ son/ mother/neighbor?" The writing isn't dazzling, but the construction and pacing are solid, staying just far enough ahead of the reader to be fun, and offering, in the last quarter, a buffet table of twists - if you don't like one, just stick around for 10 pages - and an open door to a sequel. More than one of the women in this novel is a monster, more than one of the men is an easily manipulated dolt or lech, and its view of mental illness is antediluvian. But nobody ever said thrillers have to play nice as long as they play fair. BITTER ORANGE (Tin House, $25.95), by Claire Fuller, plays both nice and fair. This is not a particularly brutal or cruel novel, as thrillers go. Again the timeline is split: In 1989, Frances Jellico, a woman in late middle age, lies dying in an institution of some kind, while remembering a summer she spent 20 years earlier with a young couple that represented everything she had always been denied - friendship, pleasure, sexuality, intimacy Frances, a lonely, awkward social misfit recently freed from the constraints of caring for her sick mother but still burdened with plenty of baggage, is a type familiar to readers of the great Ruth Rendeli - a woman whose personal issues will end up making her either a victim or an agent of chaos. And Peter and Cara, who share a languorous, hothouse summer with her in an old English country mansion to which they've brought their own secrets, are the spark. Fuller, a skilled stylist, is very good at letting you get to know Frances by degrees and at describing a setting in which the ordinary rules of life feel suspended. She conveys the exoticism of a temporary new home and the eroticism of a temporary new attachment. You can taste the wine, smell the musty fabrics and the overripe fruit, hear the hum of lazy insects and track the teasing suggestion that something will eventually go terribly wrong. She keeps the suspense at such a low simmer - as if Anita Brookner had decided to try her hand at a potboiler - that you might be forgiven for wondering if, at times, the flame has gone out altogether. What tension there is rests on whether the rupture - the thing that will make that summer describable as "fateful" - will arrive because Frances is unequipped to deal with this couple, or because they're sinister and somehow using her as a pawn. But the very fact that Frances is narrating the story in a second, decades-later timeline lowers the stakes by removing one possibility: Whatever happens, you know that she lives to tell the tale. Too much of "Bitter Orange" consists of two interesting, dramatic people doling out selective information to their undramatic listener; even as the noose tightens (and it does), you sense you could still slip out of it. It's a tribute to Fuller's abilities that even when her plot feels slight, the atmosphere she conjures creates its own choking sense of dread. SARAH PINBOROUGH has set the swift and entertaining CROSS HER HEART (Morrow/ HarperCoiiins, $26.99) entirely in present-day England, opting (at least initially) for one timestream but multiple narrators. Her story is told variously by Lisa, a 40-ish recruitment executive with a busy job and the loss of a young son in her past; her teenage daughter, Ava, who compulsively checks Facebook, connects with her friends in a WhatsApp group called MyBitches, is being text-seduced by a creepy older man, and is, in general, a first-act-of-"SVU" victim in print form; and Marilyn, Lisa's closest friend. Pinborough writes these women with a good ear, a lack of sentimentality and a sharp sense of how difficult intergenerational communication can be. She also holds the cards she's planning to play very tightly Sixty pages in, "Cross Her Heart" still feels less like a thriller than like one of those books with a drearily earnest set of reader's guide questions at the end: "What did you think of Lisa's choices? Do you think Lisa and Ava have more in common than they realize?" But stick with it, because when Pinborough unveils her first surprise about a third of the way in, it's a good one, so good that even the legally mandated device that kicks in with it - chapters headed "Now," "After" and (for a big 1989 section) "Before" - doesn't slow her novel's momentum. None of the plot points here are entirely new - they involve the requisite terrible teenage incident, multiple identities, the internet, the possibility of false memory, at least one total psycho, a decades-long game of revenge and a climax (one of many) about which one character, not inappropriately, remarks, "You sound like you're in one of those terrible straight-to-DVD thrillers!" But what feels fresh is the dispatch with which Pinborough throws every one of them into a single novel. The mechanics aren't deftly concealed here, but the machine itself works, motoring toward about five different endings. "Cross Her Heart" also has a welcome sisterhood-ispowerful vibe; it's a novel that defines women by their relationships with one another, even as their creator is ruthlessly shoving them into position for the next twist. RELATIONSHIPS AMONG WOMEN - even women who have never met - are also at the core of Sarah Meuleman's find me gone (Harper/HarperCollins, paper, $15.99), which IS set in 2014 New York and in northwest Belgium in 1996, where, sigh, The Bad Thing That Will Be Dosed Out One Teaspoon at a Time occurred. There is a lot that needs to be forgiven in the early stages of this novel. Our protagonist is Hannah, a fashion-mag journalist whose full-time position filing a mere 200 words of party coverage per issue (!) affords her a nice apartment in the West Village (!!), but who forsakes both job and rental for the wild yet integritypacked frontier of Bushwick, where she plans to write a book. We intuit that something horrible has happened to her, partly because Hannah's friend helpfully says: "We all know about the horrible thing that happened." (This is a novel in which, be warned, things like that are said with regularity.) Signs suggest that whatever it was happened 18 years earlier, when Hannah was a child in Bachte-Maria-Leerne. When "Find Me Gone" pries itself away from its unconvincing glimpse of Downtown Manhattan's publishing-and-parties demimonde, it becomes a stranger and darker novel than its beginning suggests. The Belgium sections, about a dreadful kidnapping and the shaky romantic friendship between two girls on the cusp of puberty, are believable, and then Agatha Christie and Virginia Woolf show up as characters in chapters of their own. They're part of the book Hannah is writing, about writers who "fought their battles, swam against the current and then disappeared one day. Just like the 12-year-old girl who vanished from a Belgian village," a connection it would have been better to allow readers to make. Showing one's hand like that doesn't help a thriller, nor does leaning on "Where is this all going?" for as long as "Find Me Gone" does. Hannah's journey is persuasively grim and not without surprises; ultimately, it becomes a meditation on the possibility that a woman can create her identity by controlling the terms of her own disappearance. But I couldn't help wondering if that magazine job was still available. MARK HARRIS'S most recent book is "Five Came Back." He is currently working on a biography of Mike Nichols.


Library Journal Review

[DEBUT] Belgian author and Vogue columnist Meuleman's debut was nominated for the Bronzen Uil for best literary debut when it was published in Dutch. The story takes place in two time periods, 1996 and 2014, and in two locations, Belgium and New York. Hannah and Sophie are best friends growing up in small-town Belgium, where local girls have been disappearing. Sophie's home life is rough, and she only feels safe when she is with Hannah. But Hannah soon discovers boys and doesn't have as much time for Sophie; their friendship becomes strained. Sophie disappears one night after a high school dance and is never seen again. In 2014, Hannah lives in New York and works for a fashion magazine. Some would think Hannah is living the good life but questions and memories from her past come back to haunt her. What happened to Sophie that night so long ago? VERDICT This clever, dark, and engrossing debut will suck readers in with its great story, exemplary writing, and spot-on pacing. With a wonderful twist at the end, this page-turning thriller is highly recommended.-Joni Gheen, LadyJ's Bookish Nook, McConnelsville, OH © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.