Thursday, January 3, 2013

"The One I Left Behind"

Jennifer McMahon's books include Dismantled, the New York Times bestseller Island of Lost Girls, and the breakout debut novel Promise Not to Tell. She grew up in suburban Connecticut, and graduated from Goddard College. Over the years, she has been a house painter, farm worker, paste-up artist, pizza delivery person, homeless shelter staff member, and has worked with mentally ill adults and children in a few different capacities. Currently, she lives in Vermont with her partner, Drea, and their daughter, Zella.

McMahon applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The One I Left Behind, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The One I Left Behind, the scene that unfolds -- while not fraught with the tension or suspense found in other parts of the book -- gives the reader a sense of three important characters. We are back in the summer of 1985. The narrator, Reggie, is 13 years old. She is in her living room watching TV with her best friend Tara, and Reggie’s Aunt Lorraine. In just a few short moments, their lives are going to change: they’re about learn about that a woman’s hand has been left in a milk carton on the steps of the police station – it’s the very first time the killer Neptune strikes. Neptune will eventually take Reggie’s own mother as his final victim.

But they don’t know any of that yet. On page 69, they’re in the living room eating Doritos and watching television, happily oblivious. The girls have to turn off MTV so Lorraine can watch the local news at noon (she has a crush on the weatherman).

Here is a bit from page 69:
After the news, Reggie knew Lorraine would go to the garage for her fly rod and waders, then make her way down the slope of the backyard to the creek, where she’d stay until it got too dark to cast flies. The left side of the couch where she sat night after night was infused with the tangy, fish smell that seemed to follow her everywhere she went. Reggie half expected to look at her neck one day and see gills.

“Two more weeks until summer vacation,” Lorraine said, still focused on the loose thread.

“Mmmm,” Tara aid, reaching for another Dorito. “Then it’s good-bye, Brighton Falls Junior High. Thank God.”

“Maybe you two should get jobs,” Lorraine said.

Tara laughed. “We’re too young.”

“I was working in my father’s shop when I was twelve,” Lorraine said.

“That was back before the days of child labor laws,” Tara shot back. “The Dark Ages,” she added, wiping orange cheese powder on her black jeans as she gave Reggie a conspiratorial wink.
I like that we’re getting a look at their ordinary world where the biggest thing that’s happening to them is being about to graduate from 8th grade. They don’t know (though the reader does) that there’s a killer in their midst and that Neptune’s crimes will tear the whole town, as well as Reggie’s own family, apart.
Learn more about the book and author at Jennifer McMahon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Promise Not to Tell.

The Page 69 Test: Island of Lost Girls.

The Page 69 Test: Dismantled.

--Marshal Zeringue