The Lost Girls: A Novel by Heather Young

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

The Lost GirlsThe Lost Girls interweaves two stories that involve different generations of the same family and link a tragic moment in the past to events that occur in the present. The central figures in the stories are Lucy Evans and Justine Evans, with the chapters alternating between the two women. Lucy is Justine’s great-aunt, and her story from the past is revealed through her personal journal. Justine’s contemporary story is told from her perspective in the third person. The stories involve family relationships, friendships, hurt, resentment, sadness, grief, loss, betrayal, cowardice, courage, loyalty, and secrets.

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Shortly before Lucy’s death, she decides to write down the events that happen over the course of an unforgettable summer in 1935, when her parents and two sisters are vacationing at their house on a remote lake in Minnesota. Lucy is eleven, Lilith is thirteen, and Emily is six. Each sister is trying to deal with issues in their lives. Lucy and Lilith have been drifting apart, and Lucy is hoping to revive their friendship during the summer. However, Lilith seems to care more about boys and her personal appearance than spending time hanging out with Lucy doing things that she thinks are childish. Emily wants to hang out with her sisters instead of being constantly in their mother’s company, but no one seems to care about Emily’s wishes. Decisions made by family members affect the family dynamic, and this leads to a heartrending occurrence at the end of the summer. The lives of people directly involved and those on the periphery are affected for the remainder of their lives.

Justine finds out she is Lucy’s sole beneficiary and has inherited the summer house in Minnesota, along with a large sum of money. Because of this, Justine decides to use the inheritance as an opportunity to escape from a stifling relationship with her boyfriend and build a new life for herself and her two young daughters. She leaves her life in San Diego behind and moves to Minnesota, without leaving any clue for her boyfriend as to her whereabouts. It is not an easy transition for the family. The house is isolated and in an advanced state of disrepair, the family is unprepared for the severe winter weather, and personal issues are impacting all of them. Justine’s daughters are not only struggling with adjusting to a new school and location, but they also have not come to terms with their father’s departure from their lives. Justine is questioning her decision about hiding from her boyfriend, struggling with relying on herself instead of others, helping her daughters deal with the changes in their lives, and coping with a strained relationship between herself and her mother. To make matters more complicated, Justine’s boyfriend tracks her down. What effect does this have on the family?

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