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Island of Lost Girls: A Novel Paperback – April 22, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
At the start of McMahon's haunting second novel (after Promise Not to Tell), recent college grad Rhonda Farr witnesses a child abduction in front of a convenience store in Pike's Crossing, Vt. Ernestine Ernie Florucci willingly leaves her mother's car because her six-foot-tall abductor is wearing a rabbit suit. Rhonda remembers her best friend Lizzy's father entertaining her and Lizzy in a rabbit costume in 1993, and vanishing soon after. Three years later, Lizzy disappeared en route to high school. Guilt over her inability to stop Ernie's abduction spurs Rhonda to join the search for the girl. She recalls the summer that Lizzy's older brother, Peter, had them all perform Peter Pan, which was a great success, but there were dark secrets beneath the makeshift stage. McMahon expertly shifts between pivotal events in the past and present-day action, building tension to a resolution both poignant and shattering. (May)
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As in her assured debut novel, Promise Not to Tell (2007), McMahon offers a moving if bittersweet portrait of childhood. When a person dressed up in a rabbit costume abducts a little girl out of her car, the lone witness, Rhonda, is too stunned to act. As the small rural town mobilizes a search for the missing child, Rhonda, reeling with guilt, is reminded of another girl who went missing—her closest friend from childhood, Lizzy. Joyful memories of their youth spent putting on plays and exploring the woods alternate with darker moments: losing the love of her life, Lizzy’s brother, Peter, and the year an increasingly disheveled and moody Lizzy stopped talking to her or anyone else. Past and present merge as Rhonda closes in on the costumed abductor and also on the dark family secrets that tore their perfect childhood apart. McMahon spends a good deal of time setting the stage; however, once the pieces of the intricate plot are in place, readers will be hooked on both the mystery element and the coming-of-age aspects of this atmospheric novel. --Joanne Wilkinson
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Top Customer Reviews
Pat, the owner of Pat's Mini Mart, has set up a "Find Ernie Headquarters." Rhonda is one of the volunteers. The disappearance of Ernie has caused Rhonda to take a trip back to her childhood and memories of Peter, Lizzy and Tock, her childhood friends. The group built a stage and produced Peter Pan. Rhonda's family and the families of her friends gathered for social activities. Thinking of these times reminds Rhonda of many mysteries in the past. The disappearance of Peter's father, as well as that of his sister Lizzy, is a memory Rhonda dwells on.
Island of Lost Girls is a book full of suspense and heartbreak. It is also a peek into the wonderful imagination of children and their private little world. The ending is shocking, sad and happy, too. I would highly recommend this book.
Armchair Interviews agrees.
Both stories, past and present, are tragic enough. But I think neither is really the point of the book. To me, the point of the book was how very little in Rhonda's life is as she thinks it is. She begins to learn this during that one summer, but the full import of what was going on around her doesn't become clear until the hunt for the child she saw kidnapped is almost over.
And it's not that Rhonda's purposely deceiving herself, either in the past or in the present. But there are definitely things going on around her that she's not aware, and secrets that are being kept from her. Told in the third-person, but entirely from Rhonda's perspective, McMahon reveals these secrets in a slow but satisfying way.
Rhonda lives in Vermont and is on her way to a job interview when she stops at the local garage to fill up her car, only to witness the bizarre sight of a person dressed in a full rabbit costume approach another car, knock on the window, and kidnap the young girl while her mother is inside buying lottery tickets. Rhonda is so shocked she is paralysed and after is filled with guilt that she did not do anything to intervene. As the village mobilises to search for the girl, Rhonda takes it on herself to volunteer in the search process being run by the owner of the garage, Pat, and her nephew Warren (yes, really, he's called Warren!).
But the bunny fixation does not end here as we discover that when she was a child, Rhonda's best friend also went missing and there is back story that at least begins with an Easter Bunny-led egg hunt in the days before her best friend (Lizzy), and her father, went missing. Holding the two stories together is Lizzy's brother, Peter (yes, as in Peter Rabbit, who coincidentally is how the missing girl in the main story refers to her abductor), who Rhonda has had a severe crush on since childhood even though he is now married. Could the stories be linked? Could Peter have abducted the little girl? What went on with her parents and could Peter really be more than her childhood friend? With all the name puns, it's a wonder Starsky and Hutch weren't called in.
The structure of the book is alternate chapters of Rhonda's efforts to solve the current mystery together with chapters in the run up to Lizzy's disappearance. Certainly everyone in Rhonda's world seems to have some dark secret, and she comes over as naiive and seems to just accept things at face value.
Don't get me wrong, it's a light, quick and fun read, well written, would certainly keep you entertained for a few hours and overall I quite enjoyed reading it, but it's just too full of coincidences. Ultimately though I found that I couldn't get emotionally involved in what has the story to be an involving and disturbing event. Nothing is what it seems in this story and as a result you lose the attachment and start to not believe anything that is written. I finished it and thought "is that it?".