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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

The Sea of Lost Girls, Carol Goodman: A Review

Sometimes a good cover is worth trying a new author, and The Sea of Lost Girls won me over when i was perusing Libby a few months ago. As a fellow Upstate New Yorker, and Wells, Maine summer frequenter, I was excited for this one particularly because it's close to my roots.

Tess has a troubled past but spends her life trying to atone for the mistakes she made as a young girl. When her son's girlfriend turns up murdered on a spot wrought with history and connected to decades-old cases of other missing/dead girls, she decides to insert herself into the investigation, in order to save her son and the secrets she harbors, from getting out.

This book was a toss up for me. I loved the premise, but overall, didn't fall in love with the finished piece. I think one of my issues was the inclusion of classic historical works of literature in order to propel major plot points. I can only hear that this is a "witch hunt" so many times before it becomes redundant. I respect the idea, and I'm certainly not dismissing the importance of a girl trying to speak up but being dismissed or worse, but the execution felt more preachy than engrossing. I wanted to get lost in this investigation, to feel Lila's character was more than a murder device, but despite having her intelligence and good-girl qualities reinforced repeatedly, I didn't feel either way about her. Show not tell was the focus here, and I wanted more.

Me, I love a good unreliable narrator. I want the lies and deception, but the tricky thing with being in first person and being inside the character's head, it feels cheap when we're told one thing, with the assumption we're in her mind, but having something else completely different actually be true. If we're inside Tess' head, there was no reason for her to lie. She may be lying to everyone around her, but herself? In the depths of her mind we're supposedly given access to with her omniscient POV? I don't buy it, and I struggled with the foundational shaking of her character's actions. If she doesn't want to tell her son about his father, I get that. But we're given multiple stories, all from her point of view and memory, and expected to believe them--this time, I'm really telling the truth, guys. It removed me from the story too much. Deceptions are great, but this didn't quite hit the mark for me.

Additionally, I wanted more from the characters. Rudy is such an important point to the story and he ultimately floats around the background, being picked out as a mother's reason to lie and a detective's target for motive. Harmon, Luther, Jean, Woody, and the rest of the characters also felt one-dimensional, bringing very little to the table beyond tropes and/or literary parallels that smacked me in the face.

Overall, interesting premise that failed to capture my heart. The Sea of Lost Girls would make a good beach read, especially if you're someone who vacations in Wells.


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