Finding Charlie by Katie O’Rourke (Women’s Contemporary Fiction)
Finding Charlie explores an unusual theme from the points of view of several different characters: Why would the mother of two little girls decide to walk out on her family and never come back, and how has that affected those girls, their relationships to each other, their self-esteem, their ability to trust and relate to others and to her?
Nineteen-year-old Charlie and her twenty-five-year-old sister, Olivia, have been raised primarily by their father; their mother, Maria, walked out of their lives thirteen years ago without explanation. Now Charlie herself has disappeared without a clue, except for the admission of a friend that he left her behind in a Las Vegas hotel. Even Charlie’s long-time, joined-at-the-hip best friend, Carmen, hasn’t heard from her, and that’s without precedent.
First Olivia, then Charlie and Maria, alternate narrating the story in this multi-layered look at complex family relationships. I thoroughly enjoyed their differing perspectives on the same events, especially those of the two sisters and how they viewed Olivia’s role as surrogate mother to Charlie. Backstory through reminiscences helps to flesh out their relationships and childhood experiences, while current events unfold to explain what has become of Charlie. I thought character development was outstanding.
At the same time, I believe this book would have benefited from tighter editing. Unnecessary sequences involving characters and events who have no influence on the plot or outcome are just filler material. For instance, we learn details about the condition and treatment of one of Olivia’s physical therapy patients, but we never see the woman again and the episode has no relevance to the bigger story. Carmen is suffering from an eating disorder that puts her in a treatment facility, but again, with no real impact on the story itself. The book also includes a number of invectives about environmental issues, hypocrisy in the Catholic church, the injustices of Medicaid policies, and treatment of migrant workers, none of which moves the story forward. While I appreciate books that want to bring up important topics, these vignettes just float through and then are gone. They feel like the author using the characters to express her personal opinions on issues of interest to her.
Grandma gives Finding Charlie four stars.
Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.