After a deeply rooted memory comes rushing back to the surface, Elizabeth Burns investigates her childhood best friend’s disappearance. The mystery becomes an obsession of discovering the truth after she finds a 35-year-old newspaper clipping that reveals a secret kept from her about her friend’s mother, Adele Cassidy.
Elizabeth, who is now a mother herself, sets out on a quest to find anyone who once came in contact with Adele Cassidy, in order to find out what exactly happened 35 years ago when her best friend, April Cassidy, failed to come to school. In searching for answers, questions about Elizabeth’s own life begin to surface. She is forced to face the challenges that she currently deals with about her husband, her children, her job and herself.
Between Here and April, by Deborah Copaken Kogan, is centered around mystery, as the basic plot entails finding evidence of April Cassidy’s disappearance. However, the novel also touches on mental illness and its effects on the life of a person. Mental illness is a recurring theme that many characters face throughout the novel. Several characters deal with illnesses that go undiagnosed, such as depression and postpartum psychosis. The novel conveys a gritty and haunting tone in its depiction of psychosis and mental disorders.
The center plot, consisting of April Cassidy’s disappearance, is appealing in the beginning of the novel. At one point, April and Elizabeth were best friends in grade school, and the next April was never heard from again. The disappearance of a small child is enough to pique the reader’s interest for the rest of the novel and it drives the plot.
As Between Here and April progresses, the author introduces several different thematic threads. In the beginning, the disappearance of April Cassidy was the main plotline. However, Kogan introduced plenty of other aspects to the book, such as dealing with marriage and kids and struggling with depression and psychosis. By the middle of the book, there are so many threads going on that the one central idea, April’s disappearance, seems to disappear itself.
Kogan has an interesting way of portraying her characters, as well. She takes two genders and forms them into two separate categories: women in the novel have depression and suicidal thoughts; and the men in the novel are incessant workaholics who make no time for their families. The main character, Elizabeth, is written as passive, just going through the motions. She never deals directly with any struggles or troubles that she faces in her life. Paralleling Elizabeth, even though Adele Cassidy also fights depression, she doesn’t seem to deal with her problems, either. Instead, all characters tiptoe around their issues and nothing gets resolved.
The overall plot would be a decent idea, if it had been developed further by the author. Although there were engaging topics to discuss, such as that of mental illness, Kogan seemed to have too many ideas running through her head all at one time. She failed to develop one wholly, which left the novel lacking in many areas.
On the plus side, it’s a relatively quick read and very well written. Kogan has an excellent style of writing that flows smoothly with no choppiness involved. Still, the novel would have benefitted from some serious plot and character development.
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars.