Behind the Book
Years ago, I caught a snippet of a talk show segment about a woman who had been accused of killing her newborn. Already a parent to one at the time and pregnant with my second child, this story horrified me. Yet I also felt incredible pity for this young woman. Here I was secure, with a partner, a strong education and good socioeconomic standing, and still every aspect of motherhood overwhelmed me. All of my conflicting feelings in that moment – the guilt about my own limitations, the fear, the sympathy – sparked inspiration for Where They Found Her.
Where They Found Her is set in the fictional university town of Ridgedale, New Jersey. It is narrated from the perspectives of three different women: new resident Molly, a fledgling freelance reporter who is still recovering from a traumatic, late term stillbirth; Barbara, wife of the local police chief and the town’s resident Sanctimommy; and Sandy, a high school dropout from the wrong side of the tracks who is desperately trying to pull herself up by the bootstraps without any support from her dangerously unreliable mother. The story begins when the body of a newborn is found in the woods near the prestigious University campus, and Molly is called upon to cover the story. Meanwhile, Sandy’s troubled mom has gone missing, and Barbara’s young son is suddenly off the rails. The truth of the baby’s death lies in the unexpected intersection of these three women’s past and present.
The news today brims with stories about stories of sexual assaults on college campuses that are never prosecuted, and stories of young women who find themselves pregnant and alone and terrified. These current events are where I found many threads of my mystery. But the heart of the story was fueled by my own questions about motherhood. I’ve never had a mother in the traditional sense so having children of my own has been—in ways big and small—forging into unknown territory. What I found most strange after having my first daughter—aside from the trials and tribulations of daily caretaking—was the unexpected pressure of the new role I had been thrust into: Mother complete with its sky-high expectation, draconian limitations, and, yes, so much joy.
I did not come to parenthood with a clean slate. I don’t think any of us do. We are all trying to either emulate a history we treasure or avoid a past we would rather forget. Can any of us escape the weight of that? More than anything, I wrote Where They Found Her because I wanted to know: sooner or later does the past really catch up to all of us?