In her first novel, Gershow explores the emotional toll on the surviving sibling of an abducted teenager.
Fifteen-year-old Lydia is a brainy nerd obsessed with geopolitics. Her older brother Danny is the popular jock. When he goes missing in August 1995, Lydia’s parents are understandably overcome with grief and obsessed with finding him. Danny has been their favorite, or at least the one they could relate to more easily than dourly serious Lydia. Two years ahead of her in high school, Danny has treated Lydia with contempt for years. But when Lydia reads the outrageously misspelled note he wrote to a girl in one of his classes, she remembers the brother he was back in grade school. Academically challenged, he was also endearingly vulnerable, with an easygoing humor that cemented the family together. But then, after he finished ninth grade (for the first time), the family moved and Danny reinvented himself. Thanks to a sudden growth spurt and intense working out, he repeated ninth grade in his new school with a charisma and athletic prowess that made up for academic deficits. Despite brief flashes of his old sweetness, he was often mean to Lydia. Now his jock friends, who genuinely adored Danny, adopt her. Drawn into the popular, fast crowd, she abandons her geeky friend, loyal David. Meanwhile, Lydia’s desperate parents hire a private detective. Lydia admires Denis’s hard-boiled approach and answers his probing questions honestly. She develops a crush on him until she realizes his interest derives from suspicion. Eventually, Danny’s body is found, and the sad facts of his murder revealed. However, Lydia does not come to a real understanding of her brother’s death, and life, until her high-school reunion ten years later.
While missing and murdered children have become a staple of popular fiction, Gershow keeps her approach fresh thanks to Lydia’s disarmingly unsentimental narrative voice, which allows Danny to be more than a saintly victim.