all had this dream in
one form or another:
After something traumatic
happens, you run away to either drown your sorrows in chocolate or take
a long nap— or in the case of Cynthia Bigge, sleep off an underage
drinking bout. When you wake up/come back, the witnesses to your trauma
are gone. They’ve been erased, like those electronic copies of 1984
that Amazon quietly snatched from people’s Kindles without any warning.
For some of us, that would be a
dream come true! For Cynthia, however, it is terrifying. Not so swift
on the uptake (hangover), she wanders through the house and sees all
the beds neatly made, no breakfast mess in the kitchen, the cars gone,
and no gently scolding note from her mother—nothing. She keeps making
excuses for why things aren’t the way they should be.
Up to this point, I can let the
story carry me along and accept what’s going on, but, gee, if I were
Cynthia, I would have gotten suspicious a little sooner. Of course, I
wouldn’t have gone out drinking with an older guy when I told my
parents I was studying with my friend. And granted, Cynthia is
Here, the story falls apart for
me. Cynthia heads off to school, figuring her brother is there already,
and he can tell her what kind of trouble she’s in—her brain is still
fuzzy. As she walks, she thinks about what happened last night . . .
and she recalls that her mother called her best friend’s house, where
she was supposed to be studying, and remembers the phone conversation
her mother had.
was when Cynthia’s father grabbed the faded fedora hat he never went
anywhere without, got in his Dodge, and started driving around the
neighborhood, looking for her. He suspected she might be with that
Vince Fleming boy, the seventeen-year-old from the eleventh grade, the
one who had his license, who drove around in a rusted red 1970 Mustang.
Excuse me? Does anyone else see
the problem here? We start the book in Cynthia’s head in “the morning
after,” then as she’s walking to school, we get into the thoughts and
actions from ten or twelve hours ago of people who
Cynthia got home, after being yanked out of her boyfriend’s car, she
shouted at her parents and went up to her room—no chance to sit down
and say, “Oh, by the way, Mom and Dad, what were you thinking and doing
when you realized I lied to you?” So how would she know?
This isn’t a Sci-fi movie about
some hive mentality that lets you go back and see what somebody else
thought and felt ten hours ago. Because if it were, the mystery would
be solved. End of story.
can understand people
head-hopping from the mind of one person to another in the
same scene. But, honey, I’ve never heard of head-hopping
where you also had to time-travel. Sorry, major klank
moment. Writing teachers and editors tell newbie writers never to
head-hop, and some publishers’ guidelines say not to head-hop—one POV
per scene, please. But the really big name writers can get away with
it, and they do it quite skillfully so you don’t stub your toe,
metaphorically speaking, and stop and think, “We’re in Scarlett’s head,
but a minute ago we were in Rhett’s. What happened?”
What, my little novices may be
asking, is POV (point of view)? You’ve watched M*A*S*H, right? In one
episode, the camera is a wounded soldier—you see everything he would,
the doctors and nurses talk directly to the camera. That is POV. You
are in the story—and you’d be danged confused if suddenly the camera
spun around and continued the scene through the eyes of a nurse
standing behind the doctor talking to “you.” (Or, in some really weird
fiction, you become the rat sitting under the cot.) That is
head-hopping. If you want to switch to the nurse’s POV (or the rat’s),
first close the scene you’re in.
The next chapter jumps ahead a
few years. Cynthia is grown up, married, and the subject of a Cold
Case–type TV show. Only now we’re in her husband’s POV. The rest of the
book will be told through his eyes.
The following chapter retells
the courtship of the narrator and Cynthia. Time-travel again. Feel a
little dizzy getting yanked around from year to year and POV to POV?
Finally, in chapter five, we get
a snippet of information about Cynthia’s parents, which leads me to
believe her father was probably in Witness Protection or a former
spy/government agent, and that’s why the family disappeared. Doesn’t
explain why Cynthia got left behind—I think the author wants you to
believe the juvenile delinquent boyfriend had something to do with it,
which is why I don’t choose that option. Then, we settle into the
present and get on with the story, and we’re going to find
out—according to the blurb on the back of the book—that someone doesn’t
want Cynthia digging into the past. Supposedly that threat is what
makes this a thriller.
After the big klank
and time-travel moments at the beginning of the book, how many people
will finish the book and find out? Not me. I got as far as the travails
of the narrator as a creative writing teacher. The fourth time I
thought, “Get on with the mystery!” I decided to give up. I have too
many other books waiting to be read or written. Knock me out of the
flow of the story too many times, and I’m going to give up and go read
something else. How about you?