The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel
The Comforts of Darkness
This is my second novel by Amy Engel I read The Roanoke Girls last summer and loved the dark feel of that so when I found she had put out a second book I had to pick it up. This story does not waste a word to craft a story to keep you moving from page one to the very last page. It explores the dark sides of living in a small town. It also explores the strong will of a mother. A mother who will do anything and everything to find out what happened to her little girl and bringing that person to justice.
Eve and her brother, Cal, were raised in squalor by an abusive, drug-addicted mother with a succession of unsavory boyfriends. She physically punished her children for infractions such as crying because they were hungry, telling them, “You had it coming,” a phrase that came to be thought of by her children as her manta expressing her philosophy about life. Eve and Cal lean on each other to try and get through their childhood.
Evie ends up pregnant and vows that her daughter Junie will live a different life. Cal does everything she can to help her stay on an even path.
In response to motherhood, Eve changed. She quit drinking, smoking, and getting in trouble. She gave up men. Well, except for Jimmy Ray. And ultimately, she did what was required to extricate herself from that abusive relationship. She continued working as a waitress at the diner, and Junie’s needs have always been her priority. Motherhood is not easy, of course, but unlike her own mother, Eve has been an affectionate, supportive, and caring mother, despite lacking the financial means to give Junie everything she wants and deserves. Junie’s presence made Eve’s life bearable. Eve even went as far as to cut ties with her mother from the day Junie is born.
Cal has always been a doting uncle. And to Eve’s surprise, Junie developed a strong bond and tight friendship with a girl her age, Izzy Logan, the daughter of Jenny and Zach. Jenny went away to college but opted to return with her husband, Zach, who is in line to take over her father’s boat dealership, to raise their daughter in Barron Springs. The Logans’ affluence was never a barrier to the girls’ relationship.
Despite all her efforts, Eve has carried a sense of dread and foreboding, worry that something horrible would happen to Junie. As the story opens, Junie is expected home after spending the night at Izzy’s house. Instead, Cal arrives at the diner to inform Eve that the girls’ bodies have been discovered in the local park, their throats slit. That was never the horror story Eve envisioned.
After the death of Junie and Izzy, we the readers watch a woman who is determined to find out what happened to the girls in a small town where no one will even look at her because of her past and her mother. The police bombard her with questions about Junie’s father and making her feel like a criminal rather than the grieving mother that she was. This was a quick and dark read that makes you angry at everyone who is supposed to be helping solve a crime.
The Familiar Dark is an absorbing look at small-town America — it is ugliness and beauty. It is an intricate and remarkable tale about how secrets and betrayals can harm innocents. The story is peppered with details of Eve’s past and circumstances that lead to the sad deaths of the little girls. This story explores the concept of what a mother is willing to do to get justice for her daughter and the circumstances that make Eve more “comfortable in the dark.” This tale is perfect for anyone who likes a gut-wrenching dark tale that stays constantly in the dark and keeps you engrossed from page one all the way to the end.
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