A long-suffering woman confronts more turmoil after her boyfriend kidnaps her daughter.
At the beginning of Levine’s (North of Nowhere, 2014, etc.) nonlinear novel, Marcy Travers is knocked unconscious and then wakes up in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. Her boyfriend, Boyd, has struck her and taken her daughter, Katie, and is apparently on the run. She first met Boyd at work, where he was the janitor. At almost 7 feet tall, he came across as a gentle giant, and had become something of a stepfather to Katie. As the search for Boyd and Katie begins, the story goes back to a variety of time periods and introduces a number of different characters, including Marcy’s sister, Tanya; their mother, Jo; their foster mother, Mrs. Edmonds; and Boyd’s mother, Grace. Marcy had a tough childhood. Her mother raised her in a neighborhood of bars and liquor stores, and Marcy watched as Jo became a penniless alcoholic who at one point resorts to prostitution. Baby Tanya is abandoned at a church and eventually both she and Marcy end up in the home of Mrs. Edmonds, a stoic but somewhat stable foster mother. Separately, young Boyd is not treated well by many people; he faces bullies at school and feels very insecure about his height. In the present, Marcy tries to enlist the help of Grace in the search for Boyd and Katie while also battling her own demons. Marcy cannot forgive her mother for the past, and Jo and she wrestle with forgiveness as the hunt for Katie grows dire. Levine’s characters live in a hardscrabble universe and he does an admirable job of portraying their turbulent lives in environments that offer little compassion. Characters such as Mrs. Edmonds, who found her calling as a foster mother, or Boyd, wracked with loneliness and self-doubt, are certainly well developed. Time and place are more difficult to pin down. The novel’s small Southern town seems a bit more like a struggling Rust Belt city. Because the book jumps around often, and with no dates given, it’s unknown at the beginning of each chapter what year it is or how old the characters are, and that distraction can overwhelm a reader.
A heartfelt family tale, hampered by its organizational style.