I’m sure that there is a reason that we are culturally obsessed with mysteries with unreliable narrators and “strong female leads” as Netflix would say. I don’t know what that reason is, except that maybe we are finally in a place where we are willing to read about complicated women or maybe we are disillusioned with a world where we are constantly bombarded with news, conflicting stories, moral ambiguity and conspiracy theories that seem to suck in even the most level headed individuals. Whatever the reason Still Mine by Amy Stuart is one of the best iterations of this trend that I’ve come across.
Mysterious Clare is sent to the mining town of Blackmore to search for a young missing woman called Shayna. As Clare begins her search she becomes involved with the local people, Shayna’s charming ex husband, the local drug dealer and the disturbed parents of Shayna. Everything about the depictions of a small town, left behind by a changing world and economy and left to it’s own devices, rings true. The characters in the town are troubled, problematic and even at times violent but they are relatable, nonetheless. Blackmore is a mountain town that could be any mountain town that once had the resources to make it a rich town but it is now occupied by those who never left, who are hopeless and rudderless. Clare slowly begins to unravel as she finds herself in a situation that she is all too familiar with we are all reminded that old habits die hard. What’s most shocking about Still Mine is how not shocking all of it is. The revelations, while revelations to the reader are real world problems that are faced by numerous people all over North America and perhaps even worldwide. And the ending was a surprise but one that felt too sad and too realistic. On first reading I was annoyed that Amy Stuart didn’t explicitly say that the story was set in Canada. Canadian authors and creators sometimes fall in to the trap of setting something in a vaguely North American place so it can be sold to American audiences. This is always troublesome because Canada has a great history of great authors, musicians and artists and we have long struggles with finding our own unique voice. That said, I believe this was a deliberate choice by Amy Stuart to represent a town that could be any town and people that could be any people.
If you liked Gone Girl and Girl on a Train or for that matter, even if you didn’t, this book is for you.