Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 2/13/18
eBook review copy; 256 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9780544098268

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu is a highly recommended collection of stories that are interlinked into a novel.

Camp Forevermore is a sleep-away camp for girls between the ages of nine and 11 that is located in the Pacific Northwest. In 1994 a traumatic event transformed the lives of the five girls involved. The girls, Nita, Andee, Isabel, Dina, and Siobhan, set off with a seasoned counselor on an overnight kayaking trip to a nearby island. When they make the trip in a good time, the counselor proposes they paddle on to a big island. It is on this island that the girls are faced with questions and dilemmas that will influence their adult lives.

The novel jumps back and forth in time from the fateful camp experience in 1994 to the lives of the individual girls. The individual stories cover the background of the girls and follow their lives to the present day. You can see where the camp experience altered their present day lives, sometimes in a dramatic fashion. It is also clear that time changes the memories of some of the girls. The harrowing events from 1994 made an indelible mark on all of their psyches, however, the effect the incident had on some of the girls was much more daunting than it was for others. None of them were left unchanged.

This novel really is a series of interlinked short stories. The chapters connecting it all are short parts of the progression of what happened to all of them in 1994. The longer chapters in-between are the stories of their individual lives. Essentially this changes the focus from 1994 and the group of girls at camp to adults who all experienced the camp event years ago. It is an interesting choice of focus, and each girl's story is told in a slightly different way, in a different angle, which seems appropriate considering the girls and their backgrounds are so different.

There is no doubt about Fu's talent as a writer. The novel I read was not the novel I was expecting, but I enjoyed what she gave me enormously. I became immersed in their stories as adults, while waiting to discover exactly what happened to then as children.  She writes about the girls and then women in a truthful, honest way. Yes, some of the stories and events do seem predictable, but that could be because they reflect the actual lives of women so closely.  Tragedy is often woven into formative stories and so it is here. I do wish more was said of Siobhan and  her life. I did want to know more of her thoughts as an adult since she figured so prominently in the 1994 passages.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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