From Simon and Schuster.com:
Once, Jane Moore and Alexandra Walsh were inseparable, sharing secrets and stolen candy, plotting their futures together. But when Jane became pregnant at seventeen, they drifted slowly apart. Jane has spent the years since raising her son, now seventeen himself, on her own, running a gallery, managing her sister’s art career, and looking after their volatile mother—all the while trying not to resent the limited choices life has given her.
Then a quirk of fate and a faulty elevator bring Jane into contact with Tom, Alexandra’s husband, who has some shocking news. Alexandra disappeared from a south Dublin suburb months ago, and Tom has been searching fruitlessly for her. Jane offers to help, as do the elevator’s other passengers—Jane’s brilliant but self-absorbed sister, Elle, and Leslie Sheehan, a reclusive web designer who’s ready to step back into the world again. And as Jane quickly realizes, Tom isn’t the only one among them who’s looking for something . . . or traveling toward unexpected revelations about love, life, and what it means to let go, in every sense.
In this insightful and irresistible novel, by turns profound, poignant, and laugh- out-loud funny, acclaimed Irish writer Anna McPartlin tells a story of friendship and love, of the families we are born into and the ones we create for ourselves, and of the hope and strength that remain when we fi nd the courage to leave the past behind at last.
Alexandra, Goneby Anna McPartlin opens with the disappearance of Alexandra one afternoon in Dublin. The reader knows little about her but witnesses her disappearance and the subsequent devastation of her husband, Tom, and her family as they desperately hold out hope that she will be found healthy and safe. While looking for Alexandra, Tom has a chance meeting in a broken elevator with Leslie, Elle and Elle's sister, Jane. The four soon band together in the search for Alexandra and through that process come to know each other and to share their personal tragedies.
Each of the four main characters has their own storyline:
Jane is raising her teenage son alone but still loves her son's father, her teenage sweetheart. She is the matriarch of her family and takes responsibility for not only her sister Elle's career but the rest of life too - she manages her money, provides her with a home and is the rock upon which Elle relies. In addition to Elle, Jane is responsible for their alcoholic mother who lives with her and is prone to rude outbursts.
Elle is the boisterous and unpredictable artist who makes unwise decisions in love and tends to live life in extremes - she is very much the opposite of Jane but their love and affection for each other is clear.
Leslie is the solitary remaining living member of her family - cancer has ravaged the family's gene pool and she has lost both parents and two sisters to the disease. She knows she has the faulty gene that led to the early demise of her sisters due to ovarian or breast cancer and she essentially shuts down, closes herself off from people and relationships while she waits for her inevitable diagnosis and early death.
Tom is devastated by his young wife's disappearance and his life slowly unravels after she goes missing. His relationship with his in-laws is strained as many of them blame him for her disappearance; as a result, he finds himself increasingly alone in his search for his wife and his desperation until he is trapped in the elevator with the three women who sign on for his search and rally around him.
The story is essentially told around the absence of Alexandra - we learn very little about her throughout the novel and the real revelations are in the lives of the four main characters who are tied together in their search for Alexandra. At some point, I found myself almost forgetting about Alexandra as I became more and more drawn into the stories of the four main characters. Because the story is told from the points of view of these four main characters (with a few other minor ones thrown in for good measure), the novel seemed a little choppy to me in the beginning - I felt as if I barely knew any character well enough to care about them and kept wondering when I would learn more about Alexandra. But once I realized that the book was really not about Alexandra and the stories behind each of the four main characters began to unfold, I found I could not put the book down! In the last third of the novel, the revelations come fast and furious for each of the four main characters. Their stories were often very emotional as they dealt with histories of mental illness, sacrificed dreams and the loss of loved ones. I definitely shed a tear or two in the last part of the book.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel - even though some of the themes are quite heavy (death, loss, mental illness), the author infuses the dialogue with humor and quips which helps to lighten the mood of the novel. I am now eager to move onto the other novels by the author currently on my shelf - Pack Up the Moon,Apart from the Crowd, and As Sure As the Sun.
Thanks to Sarah Reidy from Simon and Schuster for sending me the review copy of this novel. The review meets the criteria for the Ireland Challenge 2010