Remembering Sarah

Remembering Sarah

by Chris Mooney


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Remembering Sarah by Chris Mooney

Mike Sullivan is determined to raise his six-year-old daughter Sarah to become a tough, independent woman. His own mother left when he was twelve, promising to return and rescue him from his father, an abusive and violently unpredictable thief who, Mike believes, is responsible for her disappearance. But Mike's wife, Jess, has an overprotective need to shelter Sarah. Rebelling against her paranoia, Mike waits until Jess leaves the house and then, against her wishes, takes Sarah sledding.

Only Sarah doesn't want to go up the hill with her father. Sarah wants to go up with her best friend. In love with his daughter's stubbornness, Mike grants her wish, and when Sarah doesn't come down, he finds himself stuck in the middle of a snowstorm, his daughter gone.

Five years later, Sarah is still missing. The only suspect, Francis Jonah, the former priest believed to be responsible for the disappearance of two other girls, is dying of cancer. On the anniversary of Sarah's disappearance, her jacket is discovered — by Jonah.

Battling a failed marriage and desperate for the truth, Mike is in a frenzied race to unlock Jonah's monstrous secrets before he dies. What is the connection between the disappearance of Sarah and Mike's mother? And why has Mike's father suddenly reappeared? In this gripping story of loss, compassion, and forgiveness, Mike must confront a family history steeped in lies, deceit, and, hardest of all, the persistent suspicion that his daughter might still be alive.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439183052
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 08/18/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Chris Mooney is the critically acclaimed author of Deviant Ways,
World Without End, and Remembering Sarah, which was nominated for
the Barry Award and the Edgar Award for Best Novel. He lives in Boston with his
wife and son. For more information, visit

Read an Excerpt


His memories would always be dominated by churches. The night before his mother left, Mike Sullivan sat next to her in the front pew of St. Stephen's. At least twice a week, when they needed a place to hide, they would come here, and after praying, if she had some extra money, they'd head over to the Strand, Belham's downtown movie theater where three bucks got you back-to-back James Bond movies. Most of the time they'd head over to the public library where his mother would check out her weekly fix of paperback romance books, all of them with titles like The Taming of Chastity Wellington and Miss Sofia's Secret.

It was the snow that had driven them back inside the church that night. They had been on their way home from the library when the light snow suddenly turned bad, the wind howling so hard that Mike wondered if the car would tip over. Traffic was backed up everywhere, so they pulled into St. Stephen's to wait out the storm. Belham was still shoveling out from last month's whopper, the Blizzard of '78; now, not even a month later, a weatherman on the radio was predicting another storm for northeastern Massachusetts. Mike was eight.

The church was packed with people waiting for the roads to be cleared. His mother picked up one of the three travel magazines she had checked out from the library and started to read, her face serious but relaxed, the way she looked when she prayed. She was a petite woman, so small that Mike would tightly clasp his hands around hers, afraid that if he didn't somehow keep her anchored to the ground, she'd blow away. She flipped a page in her magazine, her free hand caressing the beautiful silk blue scarf she wore around her neck, the scarf imprinted with ancient pillars and statues and angels and looking completely out of place against her bulky winter jacket.

"It's rude to stare, Michael," she said in a soft voice. Even when she was mad, which was hardly ever, her voice stayed that way.

"I don't have anything to read," he whispered. "How come the library doesn't carry comics?"

"You should have picked out a book on woodworking." She turned around in her pew so she could face him, the magazine still opened up on her lap. "That birdhouse you made me for Christmas, I saw you working on it in your father's workshop. Saw the care you took when you stained it."

"I did a good job."

"No, you did a terrific job," she said, and smiled. That smile made men stop and take notice of her. That smile reassured him that everything was going to turn out all right.

"Where did you get that?"

"Get what?"

"That scarf."

"This thing? I've had this for a long time."

His mother's lies were as easy to spot as her bruises. She was careful never to wear the scarf around Lou, putting it on only after she left the house, taking it off and stuffing it in her jacket pocket before she got home, and Mike also knew she hid the scarf, along with the photo albums, in a box marked sewing in the basement. One early Saturday morning, after Lou had left for work, Mike had caught her in the basement, removing the scarf from the box — the same hiding spot for her photo albums.

She caught the question in his eyes and said, "The scarf was a gift from my father. He gave it to me our last Christmas in Paris. I just don't want anything to happen to it."

"Paris. Oo la la."

Smiling, she placed the magazine on his lap and pointed to a color picture that showed the inside of an old church. The walls seemed a mile high, made of cracked white marble, the domed ceiling painted with a stunning portrait of Jesus Christ exposing his heart to the world.

"This is the Sacré-Coeur church," she said proudly. "C'est l'endroit le plus beau du monde."

When he heard his mother speak in her native French, heard the way the words rolled off her tongue, it made her seem more like the exotic young woman he had discovered in the black-and-white pictures pasted in the photo album. Sometimes, when he was alone in the house, he would sit in the cellar and study the pictures of his grandparents, his mother's friends, her home — everything she left behind in Paris to come here. The way these people dressed reminded him of royalty. At night, Mike would lie in bed and dream of an army of Parisians who would come to his house and rescue him and his mother.

"The pictures really don't do it justice," she said, and then leaned in closer. "The first time I stepped inside that church, I knew God was a real presence that could be felt and could fill you with love. But you have to believe, Michael. That's the key. Even when life is bad to you, you have to remember to keep your heart open to God's love."

"This picture has gargoyles."

"That's Notre-Dame. Amazing, isn't it?"

"Gargoyles on a church. That has to be the coolest church in the world."

"Michael, do you ever wonder what goes on outside of Belham?"

"Not really," he said, his eyes fastened to another picture of a gargoyle, this one with its fangs bared, ready to leap down from the sky and strike down mortal sinners who dared to enter.

"Are you curious?"


"Why not?"

Mike shrugged, flipped a page. "Everything I know is here. The Hill and the Patriots and all my friends."

"You could make new friends."

"Not like Wild Bill."

"William's an original, I'll give you that."

"Dad said the problem with Paris is that it's full of French people."

"Your father's not a brave man."

Mike whipped his head up from the magazine. "But he fought in the Vietnam War," he said, not quite sure why he was defending his father. Mike didn't know what the Vietnam War was — well, not exactly. He knew war involved guns and knifes and bombs and lots of blood and lots and lots of dead people. Mike had seen several old black-and-white war movies on TV.

"Holding a gun or hurting someone doesn't make you brave, Michael. Real bravery — true bravery — involves the spirit. Like having faith your life will turn out better when it looks like it won't. Having faith — that's real bravery, Michael. Always have faith, no matter how bad it looks. Don't let your father or anyone else take that away from you, okay?"



"I promise."

His mother reached into her jacket, came back with a black velvet box and placed it on top of the magazine.

"What's this?" he asked.

"A gift. Go ahead. Open it."

He did. Inside was a gold chain affixed to a circular gold medal the size of a quarter. Etched on the medal was a bald man cradling a baby. The man, Mike knew, was a saint. The halo was always a dead giveaway.

"That's St. Anthony," his mother said. "He's the patron saint of lost things." She took the chain from the box, put it around his neck and then clasped it, Mike feeling a shudder when he placed the cold medal under his sweater, against the warmth of his skin. "As long as you wear it," she said, "St. Anthony will keep you safe. I even had Father Jack bless it for you."

"Cool. Thank you."

The next day she was gone. Her car, an old Plymouth Valiant with rust pockets mended with duct tape, was parked in the driveway when he came home. Mike expected to see her in the kitchen, reading one of her paperback romances by the table near the window. The house was quiet, too quiet, he thought, and a sense of panic he couldn't quite identify brushed against the walls of his heart. He went upstairs to her bedroom, and when he turned on the light and saw the neatly made bed, he bolted back down into the kitchen, opened the door for the basement and descended the stairs, Mike remembering how lately his mother sat down here in one of the plastic patio chairs and lost herself in her photo albums. When he hit the bottom step, he saw the box marked sewing in the middle of the floor. He removed the box top, saw that the photo albums and the blue silk scarf she kept hidden in there were gone, and right then he knew, with a mean certainty, that his mother had packed up and left without him.

Copyright © 2004 by Chris Mooney

What People are Saying About This

John Connolly

Chris Mooney has taken every parent’s worse fear – the disappearance of a child – and used it to create one of the best thrillers of the year. Never exploitative, always gripping, Remembering Sarah is a moving exploration of remembered loss and undying hope that should catapult its author to the forefront of a new generation of thriller writers.
New York Times bestselling author of Bad Men

Harlan Coben

Remembering Sarah is harrowing, gripping, haunting, gut-wrench, beautifully-written, and one of the best – maybe the best – I’ve read this year.
New York Times bestselling author of No Second Chance

Dennis Lehane

At the core of this gut-wrenching thriller is something rare: a thoughtful, poignant examination of parental love and parental folly. Chris Mooney has written his finest novel, and that’s saying something indeed.
New York Times bestselling author of Mystic River and Shutter Island

Larry Brooks

A masterful journey into the dark regions of the heart . . . You won’t be able to tear yourself away.
USA Today Bestselling author of Serpent’s Dance

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Remembering Sarah 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Held my interest
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not stop reading this! So very good! Read all of Chris Mooneys books, they just keep getting better and better, I'm a big fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read. Good characters and keeps u guessing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Loved it-couldn't put it down. Easily got into the characters. You write as if you know what it is like to have a child missing!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Remembering Sarah draws the reader into the story immediately. Characters are realistic and play 'tug-of-war' with the reader's emotions. This is definitely going to be the most popular book on the beach this summer. It was hard to put it down. One can only imagine what a great thriller this would make for the movie buffs. I've read all three of Mooney's novels and this is by far the BEST! Thanks, Chris!
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the year 2000, Chris Mooney had his first novel published, DEVIANT WAYS, which turned out to be one of the best novels I¿d ever read by a first-time author. I was immediately blown away by how such a talented writer could come from out of nowhere with a full-throttle, action-packed novel that was able to hook me in the first twenty-five pages and then not let up till the last page. Mr. Mooney followed this a year later with WORLD WITHOUT END, proving that his God-given talent was no fluke. Now, moving away from the action thriller, Mr. Mooney has written his third book, REMEMBERING SARAH, which is a deep cauldron of suspense that builds upon itself, forcing the reader to keep turning the pages so that the final answers can eventually be revealed. When I first heard that Chris Mooney was moving out the ¿thriller¿ genre and attempting to write something that would be based on strong character development and edge-of-your-seat suspense, I found myself somewhat disappointed. My doubts, however, quickly disappeared when I managed to get an advance copy of REMEMBERING SARAH and read the first few pages. From that point on, I was hooked line and sinker, as I journeyed into the tormented world of Mike Sullivan and the lost of his six-old daughter, Sarah. Mike¿s first lost occurred when he was eight years old and his mother abandoned him without a word or note, leaving him with Lou, his brutal father whose past was filled with crime and violence. A few years later, a discovery caused Mike to think that Lou eventually found his mother and killed her for leaving. These feelings would haunt Mike into adulthood. It wasn¿t until Mike was thirty that more tragedy struck when his six-year-old daughter, Sarah, disappeared while sledding on a hill with other kids and parents. This unsolved crime would cost Mike not only his wonderful daughter, but the lost of his wife, Jess, as well. Jess would never stop blaming him for taking their daughter out sledding when she told him not to. Mike and the police force of Belham, Massachusetts have a pretty good idea who took Sarah Sullivan, but are unable to gather enough evidence to arrest the man known as Francis Jonah. It isn¿t until five years later, when Jonah supposedly finds the snow jacket that Sarah was wearing on the night she vanished, that the case is reopened with Mike and the police closing in fast on this defrocked priest who has a thing for little girls. Mike, who has never stopped believing that Sarah is still alive, must finally asked for help from the one man he hates almost as much as Jonah¿his father, Lou. It¿s only then that the journey of discovery and redemption will begin as father and son learn the truth about each other in their quest for revenge and to find their long-lost Sarah. REMEMBERING SARAH is the type of novel that will linger in the back of your mind long after the book has been finished. Mr. Mooney has skillfully weaved a magnificent labyrinth filled with utter suspense that carries the reader into the darkness of the soul and keeps the you guessing right to the very end. His characters come alive in a unique way that draws the reader into the story, as if he/she were actually living it, experiencing the suffering and turmoil that leads one man to contemplate murder as an act of revenge for his missing daughter. Nothing can prepare you for the ending that will literally bring tears to your eyes. Chris Mooney has written a masterpiece that will earn him a place on everyone¿s bestseller lists. Now, let¿s hope it won¿t take as long for his next novel to come out!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The relationship between Jess and Mike Sullivan was once loving and caring, but now is a battlefield. The person hurt most by the constant war is their five year old daughter Sarah who is pulled by both her parents in a tug of war. Each uses the little girl as a hostage as both adults want freedom from a failed marriage. Jess fears for Sarah¿s safety and accordingly tries to protect her from life¿s viciousness while Mike believes children need to be knocked down to learn how to survive in an uncaring world. In Belham, near Boston, Mike takes Sarah sleigh riding, an action that Jess bans as unsafe. Sarah wants to ride down the steep hill by herself and though he has doubts Mike gives in to the nagging. Sarah goes to the top by herself, but vanishes. No one knows what happened to the little girl.................................. For the next five years Mike wallowed in guilt while Jess remained irate with the world. The police think a disgraced Catholic priest Francis Jonah caused the disappearance of two other little girls and probably Sarah, but lack enough evidence to win in court. Mike enraged that Francis Jonah may escape, thinks he must act as judge, juror, and executioner............................ This tale is a chilling tale that is every parent¿s nightmare. The parents elicit much sympathy from readers for their plight and will understand Mike¿s feelings of guilt and his need for revenge. There is enough action to satisfy thriller fans but the author doesn¿t stint on characterizations. Readers will feel as if they know and care about many of the characters whose guilt is slowly destroying him. Chris Mooney pens another winner................................ Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got a hold of an advance reading copy of this book and it's one of the best I've read this year so far. Couldn't put it down, read it in a day. Gripping and terrifying and with an ending that will leave you breathless. Bravo to Mooney.