I haven’t read a book quite as weird as Amy Stuart’s Still Mine in a long time and I still can’t decide whether it was good weird or just weird. It reminded me a little of Go With Me – a quirky, but affecting novel by Castle Freeman Jr.
Clare O’Dey has run away from her abusive husband, Jason. In an unusual twist, the man Jason sends to find her, Malcolm Boon, hires Clare to go to Blackmore, a remote mining town in the mountains, to look for another missing woman, Shayna Fowles. For reasons that won’t be immediately clear, Clare invests wholeheartedly in the search for Shayna, a woman whose past is as tricky and messed up as Clare’s.
Blackmore is a shriveled up nothing of a town. “A blast at the Blackmore Coal Mine five years ago killed thirty-two men and trapped eighteen others underground for three weeks,” Malcolm’s notes tell Clare. She pretends to be a photographer in town to take pictures, but it’s a ruse no one buys. The only hotel in town is closed and so Clare rents a trailer on Charlie Merritt’s property. Charlie is the town drug dealer and his property (his father and brothers were killed in the mine) butts up against Shayna’s parents’ place. Clare figures it will be a good place to snoop.
Blackmore is filled with broken people: Jared, Shayna’s ex-husband; Sara, her friend; Derek, the town’s only doctor and Shayna’s parents, Louise (who is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s) and Wilfred, her father, the man responsible for saving the eighteen men who did make it out of the mine alive (but also the man Charlie holds responsible for the deaths of his father and siblings). None of them seem to know what happened to Shayna and with no police in town, no one is looking for her.
As Clare attempts to find out what has happened and which of the town’s odd assortment of outcasts might be responsible for Shayna’s disappearance, her own past is revealed; her own frailties are exposed. Like Shayna, Clare has a penchant for drugs and alcohol, making Charlie particularly dangerous to her. She also finds herself strangely attracted to Shayna’s ex-husband, Jared. She forges a bond with Louise, replacing the mother she recently lost to cancer. In many ways, Clare steps into the life Shayna has abandoned. Even so she realizes
These people in Blackmore, they are not Clare’s friends. Derek and Jared and Sara and Charlie. They are not even one another’s friends. They are only characters in Shayna’s story and Shayna is not here.
Still Mine is an unusual, albeit strange, psychological mystery. Apparently there is a sequel on the way, but I was quite content with how the book ended.
Definitely worth checking out.