A young girl disappears outside a small village in northern England.
With just four books, McGregor (This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You, 2012, etc.) has already made a substantial impact on the literary scene; three of his novels, including this one, have been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and he won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for Even the Dogs (2010). His latest, an atmospheric, meticulously crafted novel, begins like a mystery then quickly morphs into something altogether different. A family is visiting an English village for the New Year, and their 13-year-old daughter, Rebecca, goes for a walk and doesn’t return. The police conduct a search with some villagers at dawn. A helicopter has been out all night but found nothing. A van with fake number plates is discovered near Reservoir 7, and someone says it belonged to a man named Woods, who "wasn't the type of bloke you wanted to be talking to the police about." Six months pass: “It was as though the ground had just opened up and swallowed her whole.” In 13 chapters, each dealing with one year, an omniscient narrator chronicles the lives of the villagers and the impact the girl’s disappearance has on them. All the chapters after the first begin the same way, “At midnight when the year turned,” like refrains in the stanzas of a prose poem. Sentences and words are rhythmically repeated. People have dreams about Rebecca “walking home. Walking beside the motorway, walking across the moor, walking up out of one of the reservoirs." A “creeping normality” sets in. In simple, quiet, and deliberate prose, McGregor describes the passing months. The seasons change, “bees stumbled fatly between the flowers and the slugs gorged” while "in the dusk the wood pigeons gathered to roost.” The villagers—Jones the carpenter; Jane Hughes the vicar; Sally; Liam—go on with their lives. “It went on like this. This was how it went on.” The pantomime is performed every December. “Dreams were had about her, still.”
A stunningly good, understated novel told in a mesmerizing voice.