See, last week, she posted this lovely review of Ms Johnson’s To Love a Cop, which reminded me of how much I usually enjoy this author’s work.
So off I went to check, and found out that there’s a new book by her, coming out in October.
Since I’m still struggling to read (reading slumps suck big hairy donkey balls), I asked for, and received, an ARC for In Hope’s Shadow, but when I started to read it, I realized it was connected to a previously released title–Yesterday’s Gone. So, of course, I bought it so I could read in order.
I’m glad I did.
Yesterday’s Gone, by Janice Kay Johnson
This is the first of the Two Daughters duology by Ms Johnson. The premise is this: what happens when a girl, abducted long ago, turns up alive and well, now an adult with a different sense of self? How does someone who has survived isolation, and emotional and physical abuse, cope with familial relationships, memories, love? How does the family who lost that child, who has waited and searched, who has prayed and loved, for so many years, adapts to the reality of this new person?
Here is the blurb:
When a digitally aged photo of a girl named Hope Lawson is posted online, Bailey Smith can’t deny the similarity to herself. But could she really be the same woman who was abducted as a child twenty-three years ago?
When she meets Detective Seth Chandler, who opened the cold case of Hope’s disappearance, suddenly everything changes. Not only does Bailey have a family she barely remembers—and a sister she’s never met—she’s connecting with a man for the first time. A man who’s loving and gentle. But Bailey’s not sure she’s ready to be found: by him or the parents she once lost.
Ms Johnson does a great job with small towns that aren’t idealized à la Virgin River. There is crime and poverty and social dysfunction, even though it’s in a much smaller scale than in cities. Her strongest writing, however, is for the characters themselves, and the conflicts they face.
Bailey was snatched at six, kept by her abuser for five or six years, and then abandoned as puberty hit. The next six years or so she spent in the system, as a troubled foster child. Some ten years after that, at almost thirty, after a lifetime of relying on no one but herself, there is this family–parents and an adopted sister–who expect things from her she feels incapable of giving.
Her parents, who have defied the odds and stayed together through the searches, the failures, the uncertainties, the lack of closure, are strong enough to love each other through it all. Strong enough to love another child, and to love that child enough, for who she is, to make her their own, want her to belong again. They want to be free to love them, and for her to love them back.
Bailey’s mother, Karen, struggles to accept that this self-contained woman is her own person, and not the embodiment of that long ago child, who has lived unchanging in her heart and her memories. Why should she call her daughter Bailey, when she’s always been Hope to her? How can her Hope not remember those precious first six years of her live, when they are so clear and recent for Karen?
Eve, who was adopted a few years after Hope was taken, already damaged by abuse and abandonment, struggles with jealousy and resentment towards the golden haired real daughter, while feeling impotent to retain her adoptive parents love.
All of these conflicting emotional undercurrents are real, and several of the scenes between Bailey and her parents are enough to make pretty much anyone cry. None of these people are saints, though I will say that there’s a bit of idealization of the males in the story.
Kirk Lawson, Bailey’s father, copes better with the emotional minefield than Bailey, her mother, and Eve do. It feels easier for him to accept Bailey for who she is, rather than expect her to be Hope. The narrative attributes this to his innate calm, a certain inner quietness that allows him to read Bailey well enough to give her the space she needs, while making clear that his attachment to his child has never waned, that his devotion to her has never wavered, and that he is as joyful as his wife to have her back.
Seth, our hero, is almost Zen in his acceptance of Bailey’s emotional needs and demands–spoken or implied. He is not perfect, and has some issues of his own, but his personal baggage has been processed and accepted, while Bailey’s is still very much a boulder riding on her shoulder.
Like many survivors of child sexual abuse, Bailey struggles both with emotional barriers as well as with her sexuality–first by believing that her only worth resides on boys/men wanting her, and later by disconnecting from any sexual needs or feelings she might have felt. Now she is attracted to a man, and even worse, she starts depending on him, not just to help her with things like contacting the Lawsons or the FBI, but to support her, emotionally.
I liked that all these intimate conflicts were not played out in a bubble.
There are press, journalists, and tabloids hounds hungry for details, particularly the prurient ones. There are the people in Bailey’s life, from coworkers to fellow students, reacting to her notoriety. There are legalities–among which is the renewed hunt for Hope’s kidnapper. Bailey’s life, as an adult college student who has to work full time to afford tuition, is a thousand miles and one state limit away from the Lawson’s…and Seth.
I liked that all the characters in the story have lives beyond the necessities of the plot. Eve as a social worker; Kirk as the owner of a car shop; Seth as a detective in a small police department, who by necessity has a number of different cases to investigate and, hopefully, to close.
My only actual quibble, and it really is a minor one, probably brought on by current events,¹ is the subtle idealization/glorification of cops as idealists, almost perfect in their dedication to the job.
Despite this, I really liked the sensitivity with which Ms Johnson deals here with such a fraught premise.
Yesterday’s Gone gets 8.00 out of 10
~ * ~
¹ A person cannot read the news two days in a row–or pay any attention to social media–without becoming aware of the many abuses cops all over the United States routinely commit. From Sandra Bland’s arrest (that video is disturbing in ways beyond my power to adequately explain) to a police officer drawing his gun on an unarmed man, standing on his own driveway, because he is filming the cop…