The Missing One by Lucy Atkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a very beautifully written story about mothers and children,family cleverly mirrored in the Orca whale. Although I found Susanah's character to be superfluous, she was the author's chosen gatekeeper to all the secrets. She was a weird one, I'll give her that.
The main crux of the book is written first person by Kali, a 38 year old married woman, barely clinging to her career, her husband, and her sanity. She is sleep deprived and confused about her role in life. Her mother, with whom Kali has had a tumultuous relationship, dies of breast cancer, refusing treatment. Her issues with her mother unresolved, she simultaneously discovers suspicious texts on her husband's phone from his ex-girlfriend. She gathers her 19 month old son and rushes to her mother's death. Shortly after the funeral, Kali realizes she doesn't know her mother at all and makes a rash decision to go to Canada where she might find answers.
Kali's actions are pretty impulsive yet I can't quite fault her for making them. What I struggled with was the decision to continue on with Susanah. There was nothing redeeming about her at all except the possibility of truth about her mother. I don't know that even the promise of such warrants placing her son in the path of such a weird character.
Interspersed with Kali's narrative is a third person narrative about Elena, Kali's mother. Beginning in 1975, Elena is working on her Ph.D. in California on echolocation in dolphins in a theme park. I found Elena's life before children and domesticity fascinating. It is here that she veers sharply in a direction that eventually leaves her shattered, eventually dulling to a sad and distant mother to Kali.
There are many similarities that are not apparent between Elena, Kali, and the Orca whale. The real conflict is balancing the new life expectations and fitting what is needful into a mother's life. Both Elena and Kali focus more on one portion than another, leaving a part of them empty and wanting. The female Orca in the wild, seems to know how to keep order within her pod.
There is more excitement and I really did like the book which is why I give it 4 stars. It was, however, a little on the wordy side. Kali's thoughts are rehashed over and over again while describing exactly what she is doing and in what room and what color the walls are and the slant of the sun or whatever. Besides that part of it, I really liked it.