on January 26th 2016
Genres: young adult, mystery-thriller
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All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when Imogene was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as “troubled waters.”
Now Imogene is seventeen, and her father, a famous author of medical mysteries, has struck out in the middle of the night and hasn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. And she decides it’s up to her to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of reading her father’s books to track down a woman she’s only known in stories in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life.
Rebecca Podos’s debut is a powerful, affecting story of the pieces of ourselves that remain mysteries even to us, and the desperate search through empty spaces for something to hold on to.
I was diagnosed with depression sometime back in 2010. I was going through a really tough time. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I was overly emotional, angry, impatient, I wasn’t sleeping well, and I lacked motivation to do anything. As hard as it was for me, I think it was even harder on my husband. I got help, and while it wasn’t a cure-all, the medication I was put on, did help, and I was better able to deal with what was happening to me. The one thing I really want to make clear though, is that I never abandoned my responsibilities. Sure, it was harder for me to get things done–physically difficult, actually–and this caused me even more stress which put me in an endless cycle, but I never abandoned my family or those that loved me.
And that’s why I have such a problem with this book.
Imogene’s dad runs away from home, and Imogene never really got to know her mother because she left when she was a baby. Her father irresponsibly stops taking his medication, goes looking for Imogene’s mother, an dleaves Imogene with her stepmother Lindy. Her father has bipolar disorder and her absentee mother has depression, a depression that supposedly runs dark and deep in her family. Both of these parents are too sick or too selfish to even attempt to take care of their child. And that is just NOT how depression works. It’s not how any mental illness works. It doesn’t suddenly make you abandon your responsibilities and become an asshole. And yet that’s what happens to the characters in this book, and it really left me feeling disappointed–disappointed that THIS is the representation of mental illness this book will give people that read it. One can hope that people are smart enough to think for themselves and realize that not everyone is like this, but I don’t have a lot of faith in society these days.
It’s incredibly difficult to even think about reviewing the other elements of this book when I’m so disheartened by the representation of mental illness in The Mystery of Hollow Places. But I’ll try.
The writing is great–poetic, it flows well, and the turns of phrase are lovely. So is the symbolism with the geode/heart. But did Imogene’s father actually believe that was her mother’s heart? That’s what I can’t figure out. It was a bedtime story, supposedly, but also one that was presented as truth. So I never could really figure it out.
If you’re reading this book because you think it will be an intriguing mystery/thriller, you’re going to be disappointed. Because it’s not like that. It’s mainly a book about a girl discovering what happened to her mother and why her dad went after her. But it’s not suspenseful. It’s more about the emotions and the journey. Parts of it feel a bit repetitive, and it got a bit boring to me in places. I understand what the book was trying to do, but it just didn’t completely work for me. I can’t truly love a book unless it makes me feel something. And I didn’t feel an attachment to the characters–and considering the topic was depression, I feel like I should have been able to connect on a multitude of levels.
It is for that reason that I am rating this one three stars. Poor representation of mental illness and lack of depth in characters are what ends up keeping this one from being excellent.