Defiance, faith, and triumph in a heartrending novel about daughters and mothers
On a miserable November day in 1967, two women disappear from a working-class town on the Fraser River. The community is thrown into panic, with talk of drifters and murderous husbands. But no one can find a trace of Bette Parsons or Alice McFee. Even the egg seller, Doris Tenpenny, a woman to whom everyone tells their secrets, hears nothing.
Ten-year-old Lulu Parsons discovers something, though: a milk-stained note her mother, Bette, left for her father on the kitchen table. Wally, it says, I will not live in a tarpaper shack for the rest of my life . . .
Lulu tells no one, and months later she buries the note in the woods. At the age of ten, she starts running — and forgetting — lurching through her unraveled life, using the safety of solitude and detachment until, at fifty, she learns that she is not the only one who carries a secret.
Hopeful, lyrical, comedic, and intriguingly and lovingly told, The Very Marrow of Our Bones explores the isolated landscapes and thorny attachments bred by childhood loss and buried secrets.
Higdon's debut novel is a finely observed chronicle of two women's lives. In 1967, in a small town near Vancouver, 10-year-old Lulu Parson's mother, Bette, and a neighbor go missing. Bette leaves a brief farewell note that Lulu finds and hides. Forty years later, Lulu is shaken when her brother hints that he has his own secret about their mother's disappearance, but he dies before he can explain. Many tantalizing questions are raised by this opening, but the book turns away from the mystery surrounding the disappearances to focus instead on the consequences: how Bette's family and community are wounded by loss, and how they heal from it. Bette's absence haunts Lulu through her adolescence and into her adult life as a touring musician until a death and an unexpected inheritance draw her back home. She becomes close to Doris, a mute neighbor who raises chickens, sells eggs, and keeps the town's secrets, and they both find peace in tending animals and being close to nature. Answers about the missing women do come, but the path that leads there is unhurried, and this novel will appeal to readers more interested in the journey than the destination.