O. Henry Award–winning author Long (The Falling Boy, 1997, etc.) delivers a subdued tale of memory and character.
At 44, Miles Fanning has done well as owner of a small Seattle record company, but his personal life has soured—he’s now living at the recording studio since his wife suggested they take a break from marriage. Into this stalemate arrives an e-mail from Julia Lamoreaux, younger sister of his high-school girlfriend Carly. Beautiful and bright, Carly disappeared one afternoon while walking to meet Miles and was never heard from again. Life moved on for Miles, after the shock, although not for Julia. Obsessed with her sister's disappearance, the slightly neurotic, chain-smoking Julia flies to Seattle to `interview` Miles, to learn as much as she can about a sister she knew too little. Miles and Julia develop an intense relationship through e-mails and phone conversations, and within unravels the (far more interesting) story of the Lamoreaux girls and their deeply religious father, Simon. Members of the Messiah church, the Lamoreauxs lived a pious New England life, and the disappearance of Carly put into question the benevolence of God for all involved, but particularly for Simon, the novel's least present yet most compelling character. Miles is drawn by Julia's passion and is confronted with the ease with which he was able to forget Carly. The story builds on the connection Julia and Miles forge out of the bond of memory. When they meet again, desperation for answers is converted into a helpless, carnal need. The narrative stumbles toward the end when Miles suddenly (and incomprehensibly) flies back to Connecticut in a futile attempt to solve the case, though the strength of the characters rights the fall.
A solid, quietly satisfying work—perhaps not the stuff of accolades but successful in covering the territory it creates for itself.