The Lost Girls: A Novel

The Lost Girls: A Novel

4.8 8
by Heather Young

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A stunning debut novel that examines the price of loyalty, the burden of regret, the meaning of salvation, and the sacrifices we make for those we love, told in the voices of two unforgettable women linked by a decades-old family mystery at a picturesque lake house.

In 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote


A stunning debut novel that examines the price of loyalty, the burden of regret, the meaning of salvation, and the sacrifices we make for those we love, told in the voices of two unforgettable women linked by a decades-old family mystery at a picturesque lake house.

In 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys the family—her father commits suicide, and her mother and two older sisters spend the rest of their lives at the lake house, keeping a decades-long vigil for the lost child.

Sixty years later, Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before her death, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person who might care: her grandniece, Justine. For Justine, the lake house offers freedom and stability—a way to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the home she never had. But the long Minnesota winter is just beginning. The house is cold and dilapidated. The dark, silent lake is isolated and eerie. Her only neighbor is a strange old man who seems to know more about the summer of 1935 than he’s telling.

Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives to steal her inheritance, and the man she left launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house haunted by the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
For all the beauty of Young's writing, her novel is a dark one, full of pain and loss. And the murder mystery that drives it is as shocking as anything you're likely to read for a good long while.
Library Journal
Lucy still lives at the lakeside Minnesota vacation home where little sister Emily disappeared six decades earlier. Now she's written an account of that event and willed it and the house to grandniece Justine, who's happy for a place to hide with her daughters from her abusive boyfriend. But Justine doesn't know how dark the coming winter will be. With a 50,000-copy first printing.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A novel of quiet intensity that builds to a terrifying climax. THE LOST GIRLS contains echoes of Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories and is just as haunting.”
Toronto Star
“Young does a masterful job contrasting Lucy’s long-ago summer, her last happy one, with Justine’s dawning knowledge of how the effects of a family tragedy echo down through the years.”
“Beautifully written, THE LOST GIRLS will please suspense fans as well as those who love redemptive fiction. This is a big, bold, heart-wrenching book reminiscent of novels by Jodi Picoult, and is an excellent debut.”
“This book has it all — intrigue, complicated relationships, and a thrilling plotline — and it will appeal to fans of long-spanning ‘90s stories like Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias (yes that came out in ‘89 but you totally had the VHS in the ‘90s).”
San Jose Mercury News
“A taut, intricately plotted novel.”
Alice Mattison
“Heather Young’s clear, unsentimental writing is bracingly observant, psychologically astute, and suspenseful. Her characters include people who cannot love, people who destroy what they love-and people who slowly, agonizingly, figure out what love actually is. From its its troubling, thrilling conclusion, I found this novel irresistible.”
Vanessa Diffenbaugh
“I was swept into THE LOST GIRLS on the very first page...Heather Young weaves a captivating, multi-layered story that you won’t want to put down.”
Ivy Pochoda
“Heather Young is a master weaver of plot, time, and character. Her prose is confident, her story ambitious. The result — THE LOST GIRLS — is a haunting and dynamic debut that never falters.”
Jennifer McMahon
“Heather Young has crafted a gorgeous book that moves artfully back and forth through time, weaving a suspenseful tale steeped in generations of family secrets. Places hold memories, The Lost Girls reminds us so beautifully; places shape us, bind us, haunt us, but sometimes, they can redeem us, too.”
Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
“THE LOST GIRLS follows sixty years in one bloodline...As the twisting tale unfolds, hidden secrets, scandals and sorrows are revealed as we discover what really happened to Emily; the truth offers up reconciliation, and, ultimately, redemption for all of the women left in her wake.”
Tara Conklin
“Riveting...Told with finesse and an unflinching eye, THE LOST GIRLS examines the bond between sisters, what it means to keep a promise, and how one family’s secrets can stretch across generations.”
“Suspenseful and finely wrought, Young’s tale is not easily forgotten.”
Miami Herald
“Suspenseful ... Young juggles each narrative skillfully, noting the terrible ways in which secrets and evasions shape our lives — and how even when it seems unlikely, redemption is always possible.”
New York Times Book Review
“The delicacy of [Young’s] writing elevates the drama and gives her two central characters depth and backbone…And the murder mystery that drives [THE LOST GIRLS] is as shocking as anything you’re likely to read for a good long while.”
Seattle Times
“Vivid and suspenseful.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Heather Young earned her law degree from the University of Virginia and practiced law in San Francisco before beginning her writing career. She received an MFA from the Bennington College Writing Seminars, and has studied at the Tin House Writers’ Workshop and the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. She lives in Mill Valley, California, with her husband and two children. The Lost Girls is her first novel.

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The Lost Girls: A Novel 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Loved every page
Anonymous 27 days ago
A wonderful read, heart-wrenching and beautifully written.
Anonymous 7 days ago
lindyLW 4 months ago
This is the author`s first book and I really loved it, she did such a great job of it, I hated to put it down, I kept turning pages to see what was next. I can`t wait for her next book. It kept your interest from the first to the last. If you buy it you will not regret it
KMeyerinNC 5 months ago
One of those books where you get drawn into a story and you can't put the book down until you reach the end and then you find you want more. Woven together from two generations, with characters that you feel you know. A compelling story with unexpectedly twists and turns - with a family of secrets, flaws, love and loyalty . Can't wait for the next novel!
SheTreadsSoftly 5 months ago
The Lost Girls by Heather Young is a family saga set over two time periods. This is a highly recommended debut novel. Lucy was the only surviving sister of the three Evans' girls. She is planning to leave her great niece, Justine, the family summer home located on a lake near Williamsburg, Minnesota, as well as a portfolio of $150,000. If Justine decides to come to the home, Lucy is leaving her a written account of the true story of what happened in 1935. It was a year of great change for her family and started when her youngest sister, Emily, disappeared. In the summer of 1935 the Evans family moved to their summer home located on a nearby lake. Sisters Lilith, 13, Lucy, 11, and Emily, 6, endure their pious and strange father during the weekends, but are allowed more freedom to roam during the week. Their mother does keep an unnatural amount of attention on her youngest daughter, Emily. It is the summer that Lilith was a teenager and becoming rebellious and distant to Lucy. Justine is the daughter of Maurie, the only child of Lilith. Maurie grew up in the lake house and left as soon as she could. Justine had an unstable childhood moving constantly. Now she has some stability, but her boyfriend seems to be too needy - she's just not certain he is what she needs. When Justine learns that her great aunt Lucy has died and left her the house and her investments, she takes her two daughters and leaves him behind in San Diego in a desperate attempt to make a better life for her and her daughters. Both timelines are fraught with tension, mystery, and family drama. The tragic conclusions are foreshadowed in both time periods, bringing a sense of closure at the end. While the pace of the plot is measured in both timelines, the unsettled feeling gradually increases at the same careful rate. There is a plethora of details in the settings, times, and emotions throughout the novel. The writing is intricate and the characters are well developed and distinctive. All the girls are lost in some way in this moody drama. You will want to find out with equal anticipation what happens in both time periods, which is a remarkable feat in and of itself. The Lost Girls is a great choice for a summer read. Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Heather Young masterfully weaves the past and the present in a way that changes the future in her compelling debut, LOST GIRLS. I finished it last night, but the characters have stayed with me-- I spent the morning questioning my initial take on their motivations. Young's deep dive into the realities and imperfections of motherhood left me satisfied with the idea of even basic generational improvement. A great book club read.
Jenny_Brown 5 months ago
This is one of those books where you think, "I need to sleep, but I'm going to read just one more chapter," and the next thing you know, the book is done but you're still awake because you can't stop thinking about it. This story alternates between Justine's story (taking place in 1999) and her great-aunt Lucy's story (taking place in 1935). In 1935, Lucy's younger sister Emily disappears. Lucy's family is practically frozen in time, as Lucy's mother waits for Emily to return. In 1999, Justine has just inherited her great-aunt's lake house, where she goes for a fresh start with her daughters. The way the stories intertwine and slowly draw out the details is beautiful. The language is melodic and Young has an amazing way of weaving a sentence. As the secrets of the book unwound, I got chills. The story is downright haunting and I was never sure where it was going until the very end. The secondary characters are quite intriguing and well-drawn as you try to figure out who is worthy of Justine's trust. The ending is perfect. I really loved this book.