A teenage girl’s dream of identity

Marilou is everywhere

De Sarah Elaine Smith

Translated from the American by Héloïse Esquié. Editions Sonatine, 320 p., 21

14-year-old Cindy lives modestly with her two brothers in the heart of rural Pennsylvania. An absent father, a mother who left for long months away from home, the young narrator finds herself alone in front of her dark thoughts. When Jude, nicknamed Marilou, a beautiful young woman that everyone envies, disappears in the middle of summer, Cindy’s fate changes. What if the opportunity to escape the reality of her dull daily life finally offered to her?

Living through the identity of another

The teenager gets closer to Jude’s mother, Bernadette, who gradually loses her memory, until she takes Cindy for her daughter. Far from denying it, the young woman does everything to maintain the illusion: she dyes her hair, puts on the clothes of the deceased and settles in the large house. “I wasn’t trying to be Jude. Not exactly. But I wanted to disappear, and she had left a place. “ But can she only live through the identity of another?

For her first novel, the author, born in Greene County (Pennsylvania), where she sets the plot, retraces the steps of her childhood. Recognized poet, Sarah Elaine Smith has been a university professor, waitress, design consultant and even metadata analyst. A journey as explosive as those of its characters.

“I wanted all the hidden hearts to seek me, me”

Transporting us to a world made up of lies and pretenses, Sarah Elaine Smith manages to capture all the emotional and psychological nuances of the characters. She delicately identifies her heroine, as cruel as she is endearing in her quest for identity: “I wanted all the hidden hearts to seek me. I wanted to shine in the vast horizon of the missing, because the missing occupied the whole sky, the whole atmosphere. “ The plot, weak in twists and turns, serves more as a pretext to discover the main characters, all women with winding paths, with immense emotional needs. A haunting novel.

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