Valyruh’s#CBR4 Review #93: Remembering Sarah by Chris Mooney
A well-done psychological thriller about a man trapped in a stifling marriage but deeply in love with his 6 year old daughter. At the beginning of the novel, Mike Sullivan is struggling to give his daughter the sense of independence that his fearful wife will not allow. He takes Sarah to the town’s sledding hill in the middle of a snowfall, and loses her there—finding only her sled and her glasses, which Sarah cannot manage without. A manhunt for the little girl and the man who was seen taking her yields nothing, and five years later, Mike is going through the motions of a life, working with his best friend Bill as a contractor, his marriage long dead, and nothing but guilt and rage to keep him going.
Mike himself is the product of a traumatized childhood, where his father was a thief, a bully, and a wife-beater who struck fear in his son. His mother abandoned the family when Mike was just 9, and to this day, Mike is convinced that his father killed her. He hasn’t spoken to his father since leaving home in his teens. Mike believes that his attempt to give Sarah the toughness and independence he felt children need to survive led to her abduction, and he is ravaged by guilt. He is also driven by the need for revenge, and has centered his attentions on defrocked priest Francis Jonah, also suspected in the disappearance of two other girls before Sarah. No evidence can be found against Jonah, however, and so he lives in the center of town with 2 bodyguards, a restraining order against Mike (who once tried to beat him to death), and terminal cancer.
On the fifth anniversary of Sarah’s disappearance, evidence pops up implicating Jonah, but before the police can move on him, he is found hanging from a tree, a recording of Sarah’s 6-year-old voice playing at its base. The police move to close the case but Mike can derive no satisfaction from Jonah’s suicide, and begins to dig deeper. Against all odds, he ultimately unravels not only the conspiracy behind Sarah’s disappearance, but also the mystery behind the decline of his marriage and the truth behind his own mother’s disappearance decades earlier.
Mooney’s novel is tautly scripted and suffused with strong emotion. His central character is a tormented soul who finds solace only when he lets go of his preconceptions about the people—and the world–around him. Read closely, Remembering Sarah offers a lesson to us all.