I have been a fan of Lisa McMann’s for a long time. My daughter and I shared the Wake, Fade, Gone series and went on to read the Visions series, but Dead To You kept getting pushed down on my reading list. As a mother the premise of the book was not a draw, maybe because of the real fears of a mother I remember from when my daughter was little, but I finally steeled myself to read it and I am glad I did, McMann’s approach and characters were remarkable.
Ethan met his parents for the second time in his life and he was sixteen years old. Abducted when he was just seven and missing for 9 years Ethan does not remember his life from before he was taken, worse is his crushing anxiety that hints at a much deeper mental illness that is only truly realized in the closing moments of the book. What he does remember is the woman who abducted him and her inability to care for him for most of his life. When she drops him off at Child Protective Services he believed she would be back. After enduring horrible treatment in the orphanage he runs away and lives on the streets until one-day sitting in the library he stumbles across a missing person picture of himself. Reunited with his family Ethan’s transition is anything but easy and is exacerbated even more by the anger and spitefulness of younger brother Blake. Ethan learns of the hardships his missing over the years has caused his family, but his mother’s devotion and love for him extended even to his anxiety is what you would expect of any mother. Even when faced with the possibility that Ethan is not what or who he seems his mother is determined to help him heal. McMann creates this broken family’s home in the harshness of a Minnesota winter. Minnesota and its unrelenting cold speaks to more than just a place and season, it sets the scene for the unrelenting questions surrounding Ethan, who took him, why he can’t remember, and his inability to control his anxiety. The story is slow and meticulous and riveting. It is emotionally charged, hopeful, and harsh.
When I finished this book I felt raw. Connecting the reader to the emotion of its characters, this book grips you and doesn’t let you go. The realistic look at the De Wilde family’s dynamic before and after Ethan’s return runs the reader through all the emotional trials and tribulations of this family and has the reader wondering how Ethan or his family will ever adjust. Suspenseful, emotional and devastating the abrupt ending to this story only adds to the jolt of this mental roller coaster coming to a crashing halt.