An engaging debut about a family reunion that leads to a disappearance.
Charlotte and Beth weren’t born to privilege, but their parents worked hard to give them every advantage, which counts for a lot in England. That’s why Charlotte found it so hard to forgive her sister for having—as she saw it—thrown away her expensive education and careful upbringing to marry a worthless carpenter who took her away from the civilized world (i.e., London’s West End) and moved her to the hinterlands of Wales. It was so hurtful, in fact, that Charlotte could not bring herself to write, call, or communicate in any way with Beth after her marriage—even though Beth continued to write. After Beth’s dreadful husband died, however, Charlotte found it in herself to forgive, and she accepted Beth’s invitation to visit her in Wales. At first the reunion was a success: Charlotte never spoke of her late brother-in-law, and her six-year-old daughter Lily hit it off splendidly with Beth’s eleven-year-old triplets Amy, Jude, and Samantha. Amy, blessed with a gift for storytelling, delighted Lily with a long narrative about the “Mushroom Man,” a kindly hermit who invented mushrooms as miniature umbrellas for the fairies to keep them dry in the rain. Lily was so taken with the story that she insisted that she’d met the Mushroom Man and began to take long solitary rambles looking for him. Charlotte’s unease at her daughter’s wild imaginings turns to outright terror when Lily disappears one morning without a trace. The police are summoned to investigate what looks like a kidnapping, but the triplets wonder whether their stories about the Mushroom Man might have somehow come true—and they round up all the children of the neighborhood to take matters into their own hands.
A charming and thought-provoking tale that walks the line between fantasy and reality with all the skill of tightrope-artist. The British-born Powell, now an NYU grad student, has made a splendid start.