Clare O’Dey is a runaway wife. She has taken very little with her, but she has tons of ‘baggage’. Clare is running from her abusive husband – and running from herself… On the road in an old, unreliable and unregistered car – she heads west. She takes a temporary job waiting tables in a diner. Where she is ‘found’ by Malcolm Boon.
Malcolm had been hired to find her, but after hearing her story, he agrees to her working for him to find another woman who is missing. She has one week to find Shayna Fowles. A woman with many similarities to Clare. A woman of her age, who resembles her in looks, who has a drug problem.
She is to go to the town where Shayna lived and was last seen. Blackmore, a town aptly named due to the dour atmosphere of a mining town without a mine. An insular mountain town poisoned by the very mine that was its lifeblood. A town as black as the coal it once mined. Five years ago there was a mine explosion which claimed the lives of many of the town’s men. Now the mine is ‘still’. An atmospheric setting – rife with tension, tragedy, and family feuds – the town shares its sense of desperation and hopelessness with the reader.
When Clare arrives in the town she finds that the motel is no longer in business so she rents an Airstream trailer in the woods. As the days pass she finds herself to be drawn into the community. She seems to ‘fit’ in this town that, like her, has a tragic history. Curiously, not only does she resemble Shayna in looks (even Shayna’s mother who is suffering from dementia sometimes mistakes her for her missing daughter); but Charlie Merrit, the local drug dealer (who just happens to be her landlord), reminds her of the abusive husband she left behind… Can she resist temptation?
The reader gets to know a little of the missing Shayna’s story through periodic journal entries scattered throughout the novel. The mystery of Shayna’s fate is eclipsed only by the mystery that is Clare. As she parties around the campfire at the mountain gorge where Shayna was last seen will she discover what happened to Shayna, or, will she put herself in mortal danger?
Still Mine is an engrossing, character-driven psychological thriller. It was a study in how people cope with the unimaginable tragedy that is life and the accuracy of memory. Also, it examined the idea that one impetuous choice can affect the rest of your life. Clare’s character is mysterious throughout. The reader keeps turning pages to discover little clues to her very damaged past.
I loved how the title fit the novel perfectly with the double meanings of the words ‘still mine’. With an ending that ties up this novel and segues into the next, it is an excellent debut and beginning of a series!
Thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for providing me with a paperback copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
Amy Stuart won the 2011 Writers’ Union of Canada Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers, and was a finalist for the 2012 Vanderbilt/Exile Award. She is a recent masters’ graduate from the University of British Columbia. Amy lives in Toronto with her husband and her three sons. Visit AmyStuart.ca.