Sacks (You Were Made for This) delivers another gripping domestic tale, but doesn’t quite pull off the challenging task of telling it from the point of view of seven-year-old Dolly Rust, whose father suddenly takes her on a life-changing road trip. From the moment their so-called “adventure” begins, a sense of foreboding permeates; as they get farther from their New York home, Dolly’s constant companion, a toy horse named Clemestra, becomes less of a comfort and more of a purveyor of uncomfortable truths as she begins speaking to Dolly. For Dolly, there’s joy in doing something so unexpected and fun, staying in a nice motel, eating junk food and having her father to herself. But her dad starts acting angry and frustrated, gets drunk, and they stay in seedier and scarier places as they head farther south and off the beaten path. Using such a young narrator becomes tedious as Dolly continually makes observations in capital letters, which are sometimes beyond her years and other times too childish. Unfortunately, the dénouement and the quick resolution comes off as pat and unsatisfying. Still, the author is adept at generating tension and showing the inevitability of the past (and the law) catching up, making this a passable family suspense novel. (June)
"All the Lost Things is a slim road trip into mystery firmly in the vein of Emma Donoghue's Room...Dolly is a funny and surprisingly substantive little girl, and an acute observer of human behavior."Vanessa Friedman, New York Times Book Review
"Dolly Rust captivated me from the first page and I could not look away. I am in awe of Michelle Sacks's writing skill in finding a unique voice that is precocious and pure, innocent and wise, tender and brave. She climbs into a precious seven-year-old's mind whose world is broken and steers us over rocky roads to a safe haven. This book carried the power of Emma Donoghue's amazing Room. It is a bona fide winner."Leah Weiss, bestselling author of If The Creek Don't Rise
"Michelle Sacks digs deep into the nature of emotional survival in this enthralling, heartbreaking tale. You will not close this book dry-eyed but you will fall in love with Dolly and her sidekick Clemesta, just as I did. A book not to be missed."Susan Crandall, bestselling author of Whistling Past the Graveyard and The Myth of Perpetual Summer
Praise for You Were Made for This
"Riveting...Michelle Sacks richly explores marriage and parenting and delivers a brilliant, unflinching look at a household under siege from itself."Associated Press
"2018 has already brought plenty of twisted, gripping thrillers about marriage, but be sure to leave room for Sacks' searing first novel. A picture-perfect family leading picture-perfect lives in Sweden is gradually, unnervingly unpeeled."David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly
"Sacks deftly engages the complexities of motherhood, infidelity, and misconduct in this novel, but her storytelling shines most when Merry's alleged closest friend, Frank, arrives for a visit. Through the pair's toxic friendship, replete with jealousy and insecurities, Sacks explores the ways in which unhealthy relationships can wreak irrevocable damage on those involvedand everyone surrounding."Megan McCluskey, TIME Magazine
"An engrossing tale that probes the darker corners of motherhood, friendship, and marriage."Good Housekeeping
"Beguiling and frightening... Hard to read but also bewitchingly hard to put down."Kirkus Reviews
"[An] unblinking look at beautiful people with ugly secrets."Publishers Weekly
"The dark side of domesticity and motherhood... [You] will be swept up in the appearance of domestic bliss and maternal perfection, only to be left off-kilter and breathless."Library Journal
"Insightful and skillfully constructed... this will keep readers rapt to the final page."Booklist
"Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye meets the set of a David Lynch film in this haunting, psychological portrait that takes the dark domestic thriller into a new, literary realm."Shelf Awareness
"Full of heart-wrenching twists and turns... Richly compelling."Jennifer McMahon, New York Times bestselling author of The Winter People
"A sinister, razor's edge of a book. I was, in turn, totally gripped, completely unsettled, and not just a little freaked out... You definitely won't be able to put it down."Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of The Red Hunter
"A thrilling literary fairy tale from which you can't escape, not even after you've found your way back to the light of day... Dark and deceptive... [it will] fill your heart with dread at every turn."Tim Johnston, New York Times bestselling author of Descent
"Obsession, loyalty, jealousy, and unspeakable secrets. The savage beauty ... will leave you shaken and bereft. It is a stunning accomplishment."Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence
"Complex and relatable... You Were Made for This plumbs the darkness that can lie at the core of the most intimate of relationships: between husband and wife, lifelong friends, even mother and child."Heather Young, author of the Edgar Award finalist The Lost Girls
Seven-year-old Dolly embarks on an exciting road trip with her father only to realize that they aren't really heading anywhere—it's more of an escape.
At first, it's her best day. Dad picks Dolly up unexpectedly, and they drive through several new states. When they stop to eat, she can choose any junk food she wants, and the hotel has a fantastic soaking bathtub. Dolly and her best friend, toy horse Clemesta, are relieved to be leaving Mom behind, for some mysterious reason that has to do with Los Angeles and YOU KNOW WHO. But as the adventure stretches on, Clemesta's unease affects Dolly, who begins to miss the routine of home and rules. Clearly, there is a reason for Dad's increasingly irrational behavior, even as the word abduction starts to echo in Dolly's head. Everyone recognizes that the fragments of a child's conversation directly echo the words and thoughts of the adults around them. It's very possible that, if one were to transcribe a youngster's internal monologue, there would be a mix of childish enthusiasm and weary adult awareness. However, reading almost 300 pages of this kind of transcription, with words frequently written in ALL CAPS for emphasis, drags on one's patience and, paradoxically, makes it MORE apparent that this is an adult assuming a child's voice because it is so stylized. What are the odds that Dolly may be parroting words and ideas that she does not fully understand, and what are the chances that this misunderstanding might be important to the unknowns of the plot? I'd bet on it. It's possible to write well from a child's perspective, as Emma Donoghue did in Room, but Sacks (You Were Made for This, 2018, etc.) doesn't pull it off.
A story that could have been riveting from a different perspective. Instead, an unending loop of childish prattle.
Sacks (You Were Made for This) tells of the exciting adventure undertaken by seven-year-old Dolly and her best friend Clemesta, a plastic horse, after her father scoops her up and whisks her away. Dolly is thrilled to be with her father, to miss school, and to travel out of state for the first time. However, the longer the trip lasts, the more Dolly misses her mother, who is away on a girls' weekend, and the less elated she is to be sleeping in hotel rooms and eating junk food. Clemesta is even less content than Dolly and doesn't like the experience at all. Eventually, Clemesta helps Dolly remember what she wants to forget and realize what isn't right with this big adventure. VERDICT This relatively short novel will keep readers hooked from the first sentence to the last. Sacks's use of Dolly's voice as narrator allows events to unfold from a child's perspective and encourages readers to try to piece together the secret behind the "big adventure," which is ultimately unexpected for readers and life-changing for Dolly.—Lisa O'Hara, Univ. of Manitoba Libs., Winnipeg