What is it like to be one of those families whose child is abducted? What is it like to be one of those families whose child is miraculously restored to them? The Vincents, in Atlanta author Sheri Joseph’s unsettling novel Where You Can Find Me, know the answer to both questions. When he was 11, their son Caleb was abducted, then found three years later. He and his family—mother Marlene, dad Jeff and precocious little sister Lark—struggle to pick up the pieces after he returns.

But Caleb’s abduction and return only exacerbate what was already wrong with Marlene and Jeff’s marriage. Deeply flawed, neither Marlene nor Jeff can give their children what they need, at least not by themselves. Eventually, Marlene takes the kids from Georgia to her mother-in-law Hilda’s ramshackle hotel in the rainforest of Costa Rica, without Jeff. There, no one knows who Caleb is. There are no news vans on the street; no one points and stares. Hilda is distracted but loving, and her man-boy of a son Lowell becomes a buddy to Caleb and Lark.

All seems to be well, but one mark of a good writer is the ability to hint at the disquiet beneath what looks like a calm surface. Like Hilda’s old hotel, part of it fallen into the valley and the rest teetering on the edge of a cliff, the reader is kept in a state of almost nail-biting uncertainty when it comes to this family’s recovery. In Where You Can Find Me, Joseph takes on a difficult subject and makes it work.

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