Thursday, September 1, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault

Once again, my loosely organized plan of attack for my TBR list was hijacked by a book I came across in a blog. This time it was Sarah at Sarah Reads Too Much who gave a rave review to Emily Arsenault's In Search of the Rose Notes. Somehow the book jumped the line and got read out of turn.

I don’t quite know how to characterize this book. At its core, it’s a mystery, but there is more too it than that. It's psychological study and plays on nostalgia and tween/teen angsty-trauma and real childhood pathologies. There's a whole lot packed in and it all works.

Sixteen-year-old Rose went missing many years ago. Was she a runaway? Was she abducted? Murdered? Nora was eleven years old at the time, and the last person to see Rose before she disappeared. Rose used to babysit for Nora and her best friend Charlotte. Even after the police investigation turned up nothing, Charlotte and Nora continued to try to solve the mystery using psychic techniques pulled from a series of Time-Life books about the paranormal. But Nora wearies of the game because she knows Rose must be dead.

Fifteen-ish years later, Rose’s body is found. Nora returns to her small hometown to face the unsolved mystery and unresolved issues of her fractured friendship with Charlotte. Through a series of flashbacks (alternating between now and back then), we relive Nora’s tortured adolescence. Was Nora’s isolation/depression a result of Rose’s disappearance or was it something else? (As she insists, she was weird before Rose’s disappearance, too.) As we meet more of the people from her past, we see how they were all affected in different ways. We also see how different the perspective becomes when a person is nearly thirty compared to when they were eleven. Or when they were in high school.

The plot unfolds as secret after secret is laid bare. It becomes more complex as each character is absorbed into the mix. Their lives are interwoven as small-town, small world lives would be. The details are elegant–pulling the reader into the world. The characters are utterly believable.

I don’t generally read "murder mystery" type novels because I don’t like gore and mayhem. This is not a blood-and-guts fest filled with sadistic murderers and on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense. It was a different kind of suspense. I was intensely curious to see what had happened fifteen years ago to this teenage girl who inspired such devotion in her young charges. And after all the twists and surprises, I was satisfied with the answer.


  1. Sorry to have hijacked your reading plan, but I'm so glad you enjoyed the book!

  2. That's why I don't have an organised reading list, I always get sidetracked!

    I don't think this book is for me, but you do make it sound interesting.

  3. I remember reading Sarah's review of this and wanting to read the book. Of course I forgot about it but have now added it to my tbr list :)