The Lost Girls

Written by Heather Young
Review by Rebecca Kightlinger

As I said, I am the last. Since Lilith’s passing three years ago, the story of that summer has been mine alone to keep or to share.

Lucy Evans, dying alone in an isolated lake house, has shouldered a burden for 64 years: a secret she now wishes to divulge to her great-niece, Justine, her sole beneficiary, in a letter to be read after her death. But when Justine takes possession of her great-aunt’s house, she is fleeing a suffocating relationship and trying to settle her daughters in a new school while coping with the return of her vagabond mother. So it is not until later, after Justine’s daughter has fallen under the spell of the lake house—and of six-year-old Emily, who long ago went missing—that Justine discovers Lucy’s letter. In it, Lucy resurrects the summer of 1935, a season of shifting allegiances for the Evans family.

As eleven-year-old Lucy unpacks her trunks, she imagines the camaraderie she’ll share with her older sister. But thirteen-year-old Lilith, growing up and suddenly coquettish, shuns Lucy in favor of friends her own age. With Lilith spending more time away from the family, Lucy garners the attention her brooding father had reserved for his eldest. And as Lucy becomes her father’s favorite, her mother tightens her already constant vigilance over six-year-old Emily.  But even Mrs. Evans has to blink.

Lucy speaks her truths with candor, rolling out the secrets and unspeakable pacts that would anchor the Evans family to the lake house and taint four generations of Evans women. Into Lucy’s intimate recitation author Heather Young weaves the story of Justine’s nomadic life, incrementally turning up the tension that transforms a beautifully crafted work of historical fiction into a brilliant psychological thriller that rivals Shirley Jackson’s finest work. Highly recommended.