Janice Erlbaum returns to volunteer at the shelter she stayed at nearly 20 years ago, when she was a homeless teenager. There she meets Sam, a bright young woman who reminds her of herself and who soon becomes her “favourite.” Have You Found Her is the story of what happens next.
This is a compelling and well-written book, with great pacing and a building sense of unease. It has the unputdownable quality of a novel and Janice does a great job of casually hinting that things are perhaps not all as they appear to be. And yet, for a memoir, I found this book oddly lacking in introspection. While Janice is unflinchingly honest about the feelings that Sam brings up for her, we never really find out what compels her to try to rescue Sam in the first place, other than the obvious, that Sam reminded her of herself and that she wished someone had rescued her when she was in a similar situation. Nor does Janice delve into how her obsession with Sam affects the rest of her life; instead, she glosses over her relationship with Bill, who seems too good to be true. Finally, the denouement of the book just happens too fast: I had the impression that she was jumping to conclusions—not that I’m suggesting her conclusions were incorrect; I just needed more details to understand how she came to them.
For all that, this is a fascinating book by a talented writer and I’m curious to read her previous memoir, Girlbomb.
To read other reviews of this book, visit these sites:
Booking Mama • Bookslut • Caribousmom • Leafing Through Life • meeyauw • Musings of the Book Goddess • Pop Matters • The Sleepy Reader
(First posted on LibraryThing on January 28, 2008)