Monday, October 05, 2020

Book Review: EMILY, GONE

Title: Emily, Gone
Author: Bette Lee Crossby
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 394
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.)

Thursday, October 01, 2020


Title: The Best of Friends
Author: Lucinda Berry
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Pages: 281
My GoodReads Rating: 

The Prologue begins with the first person present tense PoV of Kendra and her husband, Paul, as they become aware that something terrible has happened at the home of Caleb, where their own son, Sawyer, has gone for a sleepover along with another friend, Jacob. The night ends in tragedy and horror, and none of the families are ever the same again.

The boys get drunk and begin to play around with the gun owned by Caleb’s dad, Bryan. 

Sawyer dies on the spot, Jacob has to be rushed to the hospital, in a vegetative state, with a bullet in his brain, while Caleb has turned silent, too traumatised by the events of the night to even speak. He has taken to screaming, having nightmares and wetting his bed.

Doctors think that Jacob’s wound is self-inflicted and that he may have shot Sawyer. Detective Martin Locke is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. As he struggles with the investigation, Kendra feels driven to make her own investigations to find out what happened that night.

Prior to this, the families have socialised together. But tragedy draws invisible lines between them, even though on the surface, it seems that the friendship is unmarked. Soon other secrets simmer to the surface, secrets that let up to the tragedy that bound their families together. The secrets range from the abuse of drugs and peddling them, to violence and cruelty in a marriage and even an emotional affair that threatens to upend a marriage. Even the boys, it turns out, weren’t as innocent as their parents supposed.

As the secrets pop out, the face of a picture perfect life begins to crumble and the parents’ lives begin to disintegrate. Soon each woman finds herself facing overwhelming reality, as they realise the extent of the secrets they have all hidden.


The book is written in multiple first person present tense points of view of Kendra, Lindsey and Dani. The voices sound alike in the language and tone. It’s only the events taking place in each life that helps to distinguish between the characters.

The best friends in the title refers not only to Caleb, Sawyer and Jacob, who have been inseparable since grade school, but also to their mothers, Dani, Kendra and Lindsey, who have also been best friends since they were very little.

I could relate to Kendra’s sense of fear as she worries about her son and rushes out to the home of Caleb, after she hears not one but two gunshots in rapid succession. Stunned and shocked by her son’s death, Kendra gives way to grief.


The writing is prosaic. The chapters end abruptly, without a cliff-hanger or even a sense of closure to them.

I didn’t get a sense of how old the boys were until Chapter 3. I assumed that as they were having a sleepover, they were much younger. They turned out to be teenagers, at least 16 years of age.

It was hard to keep the families straight initially. Which husband was married to which wife, and who their kids were.

I found one inconsistency. In the Prologue, from Kendra’s PoV, we learn that Paul has blond hair. In Chapter 15, Dani’s PoV tells us that it is light brown, matching his perfectly tanned skin.

The book ends with a revelation on the very last word of the last chapter. There are very few books I have read that could make that claim.

 (I read this book through NetGalley. Thank you, NetGalley, the author and the publisher.)


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