Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"The Longings of Wayward Girls"

Karen Brown is the author of a novel The Longings of Wayward Girls (July 2013), and two short story collections, Pins & Needles (July 2013) and Little Sinners and Other Stories, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and named a Best Book of 2012 by Publishers Weekly. Her work has been featured in The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, the New York Times, and Good Housekeeping, and in many literary journals.

Brown applied the Page 69 Test to The Longings of Wayward Girls and reported the following:
Page 69 opens the second part of the novel with a newspaper account of the search for Laura Loomis, a young girl who went missing five years before the events in the book take place—a disappearance that remains unsolved, and haunts the book’s suburban Connecticut landscape. The woods and fields seem safe. They are places where Sadie and her friends set their games and explorations as children, and yet the newspaper article recounts how searchers scoured these places for Laura just years before. Soon, Laura’s disappearance will mirror one triggered by a prank Sadie and her friends play on a girl from their neighborhood. The mystery surrounding the two missing girls has its effect on Sadie as she marries and becomes a mother who still lives in the area, and who must confront her role in the second girl’s disappearance.

These newspaper articles about Laura Loomis appear at the start of each section, and become a separate thread of the story. I felt that their spare language and the simplified account of events they narrate capture the fear and confusion that occurs when a child goes missing. In the book, they chronicle a family’s gradual acceptance and continuing longing for closure.


WINTONBURY – June 15, 1974

A massive search for missing 9-year old Laura Loomis was called off by State Police Friday, but will resume at dawn today. The search by more than 800 volunteers was called off about 30 hours after the 9-year old was last seen walking home from a friend’s. Laura, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Loomis, was given permission to visit a friend who lived on her street. When she did not return by dinner time, Mrs. Loomis became concerned, and called the friend, who claimed Laura had left her house right at 4:30, as instructed by her mother. By this time Mr. Loomis, home from work, began a search of the neighborhood with his wife, both calling their daughter’s name. State police were notified at 6:00 PM., and volunteer firemen quickly began a search of the surrounding woods and fields, until dark, when a house to house search was conducted. No leads have developed, says State Police Lt. William Reed. “Foul play is not suspected,” reports police spokesman Dan Fontaine, “but it has not been ruled out.” Late Friday he said that state police are proceeding with the theory that the girl is “missing and lost.”
Learn more about the book and author at Karen Brown's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Karen Brown.

--Marshal Zeringue