Story Plant: 4/19/16
advanced reading copy; 292 pages
The Girl Who Stayed by Tanya Anne Crosby is a recommended contemporary novel of suspense.
Zoe Rutherford may ostensibly be on Sullivan's Island to clean and fix up her parents' house, which has been rented out for years, in order to sell it. She, along with her younger brother Nick, has stayed away from the house for years. But in reality she has been running away from the house and all it represents for years. It is where her family was living when her younger sister, Hannah, disappeared without a trace. It is where she endured her father's verbal and emotional abuse. It is where she witnesses her mother's withdrawal into herself. Zoe's latest- and last - violent fight with her boyfriend/abuser Chris gave her the impetus to leave him and finally do something about the house.
While there she has to face a plethora of emotions related to her father's cruelty, Hannah's disappearance, and her rocky unhealthy relationship with Chris. These are the three things that keep swirling around Zoe's head, repeatedly, obsessively, occasionally with added details. Her father never liked her. let alone loved her. His abuse became more pronounced when Zoe was 10 and Hannah 8. That is when Hannah went missing. Nick, who was 6 at the time, seems to have been immune to the abuse. Zoe still obsesses over her missing sister, an event that occurred thirty years ago, and the lack of closure.
Zoe's relationship with Chris is related to her poor self-esteem and search for love and acceptance no matter the cost, all traits that started being developed when she lived on Sullivan's Island. Now Zoe has a scar/wound on her forehead that was inflicted by Chris as she was leaving. She worries about people seeing it and wondering what caused it. A lot. She has a difficult time connecting to people. She has traumatic memories that haunt her still and some she may be suppressing.
Crosby does a wonderful job with the setting and creating the character of Zoe. I did find some of the repeated obsessing (over the scar, Hannah, Chris, her father) to be tiresome after so much reiteration. I also wondered why Zoe had such a hard time after therapy for years coming to terms with at least a few of her issues. On the other hand Crosby slowly has Zoe provide more information about bits and pieces of her childhood and her current relationship with Chris throughout the whole novel. It is also understandable that going to the island after being gone for so many years would bring back memories you thought you had banished or handled years before.
When the end comes it is startling and surprising enough to overcome some of the problems I had with The Girl Who Stayed. Up until the end there were really no startling surprises; however, the pacing was even and there were enough new facts disclosed along the way that it kept my interest. This would be a good airport or vacation book. It will keep your attention and entertain you
Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher and TLC for review purposes.