This debut by Australian author, Felicity McClean, is a tantalizing page-turner. This exciting novel is a mystery and coming-of-age story in one. Tikka remembers her childhood–she grew up in a small Australian river valley.
One incident irrevocably changed the Tikka’s life: the summer of 1992. Her neighbors, Corrie, Hannah, and Ruth, disappeared one fateful day. The police assume its a missing case but Tikka and her sister are withholding information. Tikka knows that the Van Apfel girls were planning to runaway, a fact she kept from police. Years later, as an adult, she wonders if she made the right choice.
She dwells on the Apfel girls’ disappearance to the point where it begins to affect her mental health. As Corrie’s memory consumes Tikka, she begins to see Corrie everywhere, or at least people who that look like Corrie. McLean has a delightful sardonic wit. She frames the story with the Lindy Chamberlain case, a woman whose baby girl disappears while on a camping trip.
Tikka stages a skit based on the case for a school event the evening of the Van Apfel girls’ disappearance. Just as it had in the Chamberlain case, the Van Apfel case causes many tongues to wag. Characters jump to conclusions about a male teacher.
Many novels focus on missing girls. Julia Phillips’ Disappearing Earth focuses on how a Siberian community reacts to the disappearance of two of their own. Though it addresses the self-help industry and single motherhood, Jaclyn Moriarty’s Gravity is the Thing is also about missing persons.