In Search of the Rose Notes

Emily Arsenault

William Morrow Paperbacks (2011),

Paperback, 384 pages

Reviewed for Librarything

You always hear about how crazy people “hear things.” But no one ever talked about “not hearing things,” which was much closer to my problem. And it worried me sometimes. Now maybe it had kept me from hearing Rose. Maybe Rose had been screaming and I just wasn’t listening.

Nora and Charlotte were normal eleven-year old girls. Although one was extroverted while the other was introverted, both were obsessed with Time Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown series and pored over the volumes every day after school. Sixteen year-old babysitter Rose was too old for such nonsense but got caught up in recording her dreams and the possibility of alien encounters. She added her own notes to the already overstuffed pages of the Mystery’s books.

When Rose disappeared one day Charlotte tried to use her paranormal prowess to find out what happened to her. Sensitive Nora, “the last person to see her alive“,  became overwhelmed emotionally and pulled away from friends and family. She began a downward spiral that lasted into high school when a desperate act finally drew her out of the abyss.

Years later when Rose’s body was found, Nora was compelled to make the difficult journey home to make sense of the event and find some closure. Staying with Charlotte who taught at their old high school and slept in her same bedroom forced Nora to face some old demons. The old Time Life books were still there. Did they give any clues previously overlooked? Or did events deemed unimportant at the time matter more?

Arsenault is a fine storyteller.  I liked the way she used the mental development of eleven-year old girls, right at the cusp of belief in magic and understanding reason as an adult. It gave the story an interesting twist to view Rose’s disappearance from that perspective.  Young Nora deduced that something was wrong with Rose beforehand, but did not have the maturity to discern what it might be. The false guilt started her slide into depression. Charlotte on the other hand felt she needed to “do” something and her paranormal stuff was all she knew. Her experiments were amusing but done in earnest.

Both children were dealing with fear and tragedy in different ways. So different in fact, that even as adults they had trouble communicating with each other.

I liked this story. It breezed along and was so interesting that the ending was not the main event. It’s fun and all too rare to just enjoy a thrilling story along the way.

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