Review copy provided by publisher
Pan Macmillan July 2013
Synopsis- A missing daughter, her distraught mother.
A foreign country. A history of deceit.
When Dee’s daughter, Corrie, decides to spend her gap year in Argentina, it seems like the perfect solution to their strained relationship. That is, until Corrie goes missing. Facing every mother’s worst nightmare, Dee boards a plane from Australia to launch a frantic search.
Four years later, Dee returns to Buenos Aires for what she concedes may be the last time. But on this visit, a fresh lead triggers a new search – one where Dee must place her trust in strangers to help her navigate the vibrant but often threatening city.
Dee’s search for Corrie is overshadowed by the fear that her failings as a mother may have had something to do with Corrie’s disappearance. To what extent is Dee to blame? And is this a question that she will ever be able to answer?
Traces of Absence is a stirring and thoughtful portrayal of parenthood, guilt, faith and hope. And of the redemptive power of simple human kindness
Review- Traces of Absence is the remarkably polished debut novel by Australian author Susan Holoubek. Set in Buenos Aires, a mother desperately tries to uncover the truth behind her teenage daughter’s disappearance and in the process uncovers a few truths of her own.
The prologue set in 2005 gives us a glimpse of the devastating news received by Dee when she discovers her daughter Corrie has disappeared in Argentina. Following the death of Corrie’s father, her relationship with Dee had become even more strained and so her mother suggests Corrie takes a break to visit her friend Marco in Buenos Aires. But Marco phones Dee one day to tell her that Corrie hasn’t returned from a trip and they have not had contact in over a week. Dee leaves her teenage twin boys in Adelaide to fly to South America for answers.
The novel is then predominently set in 2009, four years following the disappearance of Corrie and on Dee’s last planned trip to Buenos Aires. Even though she feels that Corrie is still alive, somewhere, she decides it’s time to move on and to no longer visit Argentina annually. It is on this last trip she comes across a photo with a young woman in the background that Dee believes could be her daughter. New leads arise and Dee takes this as her last opportunity to find out what really happened to Corrie.
This book was a real surprise for me. Not just because I enjoyed it so much, but because the plot was quite different to what I expected. For some reason when I saw that it was set in South America and a young Australian girl had gone missing I thought that it would be an exploration of a crime ring or something similar. However, the essence of this story is the emotional journey that Dee takes as she reflects on her relationship with her daughter and comes to terms with the current circumstances.
As a professional who works with women transitioning into motherhood, I’ve found that often their difficulties stem from a difficult relationship with their own mother. So, I felt Traces of Absence gave quite an insightful examination of the complicated mother-daughter relationship, the defences that emerge from within such a relationship and ultimately what can severe or mend a relationship. I was quite moved by Dee’s journey and found myself empathising with both Dee and Corrie (who is only shown through Dee’s eyes) as well as experiencing frustration at the lack of communication or misinterpretations between the two of them.
The ending is left open-ended but I liked the way in which the author left things, I felt hopeful but also sad as I wanted to know what happened next. Even though the disappearance wasn’t neatly tied up in the end, the true conflict of the story- Dee’s inner struggles- came to a neater conclusion which was more than satisfactory.
From mother-guilt to grief to the complicated relationship of mother and daughter, Traces of Absence is a moving, poignant story about a mother who is desperate to reconnect with her daughter. Set in the exotic land of Buenos Aires makes this story even more alluring.
A promising debut from Australian author Susan Holoubek, an author I’ll be keeping my eye on.
Traces of Absence can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers
This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge: