Monsters of Extraordinary Circumstances, the thrilling second novel by Ruth Amy Lang, who lives outside Cleveland and was an Ohio Book Awards finalist, blends a hint of fantasy with an emotional tale of two sisters dealing with the brooding mother they left behind.
Judy Wilder was 18 and her half-brother Finn was 13 when their mother, Nora, left their home in San Antonio without explanation. With the girls' father gone, Judy was left alone and Finny was adopted by a foster family.
Five years later, Zadie has just broken up with her boyfriend and finds out she's pregnant, and Finn graduates high school. Jade plans to take him to Galveston for a week on the beach, but Finn has other plans. He wanted to find their mother.
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These two are more prepared for this adventure than the average young adult. Like their mother, both have had psychic powers since childhood. Zadie has a hunch, though "like a street cat, her hunches come and go as they please."
Finn is able to see memories left behind by others, usually “not full memories, but sensory fragments; the ringing of bells, the water running through your hair, the strong smell of freshly planted mulch." If he concentrated, he could sometimes tell whose memory it was. And if he concentrated too much, sometimes he was so caught up in it that he lost his original location, set himself in danger.
Zadie reluctantly goes along with the plan to use her powers to find her mother, even though she would rather sleep on the beach and read romance novels.
On an obscure and ever-changing path, they head to a hidden trailer park near Sedona, where they encounter members of the community with various psychic abilities, including the ability to hear and understand Tara's song, and where they obtain a painting. The stones indicated where they could go.
Then they went to dormant volcanoes, Washington ranches, and the Pacific coast.
Those who are willing to take a leap of faith can truly experience young women; Skeptics may see psychic abilities as a metaphor for how memories, hopes, and fears affect us all.
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The journey sets a solid foundation for romance, intensifies the already complicated relationship between the two sisters, and allows for the introduction of new characters and places that help or hinder their quest and increase the tension.
The chapters, which reflect on Nora's experiences in the years leading up to her departure, flesh out her as a character and fill in gaps in the reader's knowledge.
Lang carefully balances mythological elements and psychological realism, lightened with a touch of humour, as the novel comes to an unexpected and satisfying conclusion.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch. The Wilderwomen combines fantasy and reality in this tale of two sisters.