Review

Remembering Sarah

by Chris Mooney



Ask any parent. The one fear that keeps them up at night, counting
benevolent coup on their sleeping offspring, is the thought of
their child being abducted. I cannot think of anything worse. Think
Mel Gibson in Ransom. Accordingly, one cannot casually pick
up REMEMBERING SARAH, Chris Mooney's new novel about a young
daughter who goes missing. This is a tale that will demand a block
of time, all at once, from the novel's start to end, in one
sitting.

Mooney's masterful narrative makes for effortless reading. His
method of reader entrapment in REMEMBERING SARAH utilizes his
ability to transform an everyday occurrence into an abject vehicle
of terror. Men and women, ergo, mothers and fathers, are different.
Mothers generally tend to be a bit more sheltering of their
children; dads, in the main, take more chances, though not to a
reckless extent. Accordingly, when Mike and Jess Sullivan have a
difference of opinion as to whether Sarah, their six-year-old
daughter and only child, should go sledding, this is something that
every parent understands. Mike wants Sarah to be strong and
independent, while Jess worries about the bigger children playing
on the hill and possibly hurting Sarah.

What is great here, right out of the gate, is that Mooney makes the
reader understand and sympathize with both parents. When Jess
forbids --- forbids --- Sarah to go sledding, we understand
where she's coming from. And when Mike packs Sarah up as soon as
Jess leaves the house and takes her to the sledding hill, we
understand that too. Mooney takes us to the hill, and you can feel
the cold, hear the children and see them flying down the hill with
great abandon. And when Sarah wants to walk up the hill with an
older friend and without her dad ... we've been there, that point
where you say yes, go ahead, and you watch your child take those
first steps toward independence. We don't blame Mike when Sarah,
without warning, disappears. And we don't blame Jess when she
ultimately leaves him.

Five years pass. Mike is going through the motions of his life,
functioning yet badly damaged, unable to let go of the loss of his
daughter. The only suspect in Sarah's disappearance is Francis
Jonah, a defrocked priest, now terminally ill, who is believed to
be responsible for the disappearance of two other girls. Mike,
forbidden by court order to even go near Jonah, finds his world
turned upside down when on the anniversary of Sarah's disappearance
her jacket is discovered by Jonah. Jonah has at best weeks to live,
and Mike is certain that the knowledge of Sarah's fate will die
with him.

But there are other considerations as well. Mike's father, from
whom he has been estranged for many years, suddenly reappears,
offering to help and inadvertently supplying a fateful clue as to
what happened to Sarah. His reappearance, however, turns old scars
into fresh wounds. Mike's mother herself disappeared when he was
young, and he has always suspected that his father was responsible
for her vanishing. Mike, before REMEMBERING SARAH is concluded,
will find that everything he thought he knew was wrong.

Mooney is a fabulous storyteller. Virtually every character here is
a memorable one, and I challenge all the gentlemen out there to
read REMEMBERING SARAH without vicariously falling in love with
Samantha Ellis --- and she's an attorney! That said, I have a spot
of trouble with REMEMBERING SARAH. My problem is that I loved it,
found it riveting, enthralling, scary, and all that good stuff up
until the last 50 pages or so, when I thought that Mooney dropped
the ball with an ending that didn't quite add up. In the interest
of full disclosure, I was troubled on a personal level by his
choice of villain, one who is considered fair game by segments of
the populace.

Is my objection to the ending colored by my personal beliefs?
Possibly. But what cannot be argued is that REMEMBERING SARAH is,
for most of its three hundred-plus pages, simply impossible to put
down. Ending aside, that makes it a winner.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

Remembering Sarah
by Chris Mooney

  • Publication Date: April 20, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria
  • ISBN-10: 0743463781
  • ISBN-13: 9780743463782