The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux, David Long, Scribner, 2000, 270 pp
This is David Long's second novel. As in The Falling Boy, it involves sisters but in a completely different configuration. The story works like a mystery and yet it is about love and loss. How does one replace a first love when it is violently interrupted?
Miles Fanning runs an independent record label in Seattle (jazz and instrumental music, not grunge or rock.) His marriage is in a highly uncertain condition and in fact, he is living in his office space as the books opens, while he and his wife undergo a trial separation.
Enter Julia, chain-smoking, alienated sister of Carly, the highschool love of Miles, who vanished 24 years earlier and was never found. Both Miles and Julia had submerged this loss, in the way that young people do, though for different reasons, but now together they excavate the terrible, definitive incident of each of their lives.
To add to the spookiness, the father of Julia and Carly was Simon Lamoreaux, a minister of an obscure religious group called The Messiah Church. Simon was not cruel or fanatical, but was clearly a descendant of the Puritan influence in New England. He was also a man whose faith failed him when he lost his daughter.
What Long has accomplished in this novel is impressive. He has taken the universal idea of the loss of a loved one and woven it into the real lives of a few individuals. When I lose even a small item, such as a piece of clothing, I feel at first violated somehow, then I "get over it" and "move on", but there is a small hole in my universe ever after, like a missing tooth. For Miles and Julia and Simon Lamoreaux, the hole caused by Carly's disappearance was enough to swallow any attempt to create a further life.
The story is amazingly powerful and in the second half a page-turner. I felt what each character felt and I had to know where the story was going to go. It is the kind of book that is wonderful to find and becomes part of you as you read it.