Author: Bette Lee Crossby
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Emily, Gone by Bette Lee Crosby is a story of love and loss, of anger and hurt, forgiveness and acceptance.
Set in Hesterville, Georgia, the story takes us back in time to early 1971 with a sense of foreshadowing 47 years before the present day. The peace of Hesterville is shattered when a music festival organised on Harold Baker’s farm brings with it drugs, unruly crowds and the kind of noise that disrupts sleep and destroys lives. The festival not only destroys the peace of the entire town but also shatters a family.
In the dead of night, when an exhausted George and Rachel Dixon have just fallen asleep after three days of unbelievable noise and sleeplessness, unaware that they have not remembered to shut the back door. Drug-addled music fan Vicki Robart, who is attending the festival along with her boyfriend, Russ Murphy, sneaks into the Dixon home to steal some food. Having given birth to their stillborn baby, who they named Lara, Vicki is a mess.
When she espies the Dixons’ sleeping baby, Emily, the grieving Vicki forgets about stealing food and steals the baby instead. To her marijuana stoned mind, the baby is Lara. Russ is torn between doing the right thing by returning the baby to her parents and keeping the baby and enjoying the joy of Vicki’s return from the dead.
Vicki doesn’t see her actions as ethically wrong. When Russ refuses to change his stance, insisting they return the baby, Vicki runs away with the baby and reconciles with her sister, Angela, with whom she has long been estranged. Angela and her husband, Kenny McAllister, accept her warmly and treat her well, but Vicki does not reveal the truth about the baby’s history.
The kidnap of baby Emily wounds her parents but there are other wounds that are healed. In time, good things happen to the Dixons. Helen Dixon, George’s mother, who was unfriendly towards Rachel and critical of her, cares for Rachel and is cared by her in turn. Both Mama Dixon and Rachel have lost children. This creates a bond between them. The birth of Rachel’s twins Henry and Hope four years after Emily is taken also gives the Dixons the family they yearned for.
When the truth is finally revealed, will the McAllisters and the Dixons be able to make their peace with it?
The story is written in the omniscient viewpoint. The pace is slow and languorous but the writing is all heart and emotion.
When someone you love hurts, you hurt for them. That’s how love is.
I was moved by the dignity of George, Rachel and even Helen in the face of sorrow. Rachel especially is a beautiful soul who prays that if she cannot find her baby, whoever finds her baby may love and care for her as well as she herself would have.
The resolution is slow, or at least it seems so to us now, where the most complicated of searches are all a moment’s work for Google. So we feel the frustration of not being able to find people back then. When Angela begins the search for Lara’s birth certificate, she sets out in search of Vicki’s former boyfriend, Russ. The search is old-fashioned, and involves that great bastion of the quest for knowledge, the library.
Because the tone of the book is hopeful, we know there will be joy at the end, but we feel a sweet sensation of impatience, hoping for a reconciliation.
The author creates a wonderful picture of a small town life, with its library and crochet and quilting clubs and casseroles. They are all inherently good people in this town. Sheriff Wilson’s wife says of him, I’ve never known you to not do the right thing. And it is good to know that good things happen to them in turn.
(I read this book through NetGalley. Thank you, NetGalley, the author and the publisher.)