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In Search of the Rose Notes Summary and Reviews

In Search of the Rose Notes

A Novel

by Emily Arsenault

In Search of the Rose Notes
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • Published in USA  Jul 2011
    384 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

At age eleven, Nora and Charlotte are the best of friends - until their teenager babysitter, Rose, disappears under mysterious circumstances. They decide to "investigate," using paranormal theories and techniques they glean from a hand-me-down collection of Time-Life books. But their search goes nowhere, and leaves both girls distraught and angry with each other.

In her late twenties, Nora is drawn back her old neighborhood, and to Charlotte, when Rose's bones are found. She was probably murdered, and Charlotte is adamant that they solve the crime. Nora - who was the last known person to see Rose alive - is forced to reconsider her memory of the events surrounding the disappearance, and her own troubled adolescence following those fateful days. And she's not sure if she's ready to face the secrets that begin to surface.

Told in alternating narratives from the past and present, this is a mystery about broken friendship and the unease of revisiting adolescent memory.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Instead of dwelling on fear and pain, Arsenault guides the reader through grief, compassion, and understanding in this emotionally complex and deeply satisfying read." - Publishers Weekly

"While Arsenault excels at depicting the confusion and anxiety of childhood, the mystery itself lacks suspense." - Library Journal

"Arsenault... spins a tale that's sensitive, chilling and compellingly told in chapters alternating the troubled present with the even more turbulent past." - Kirkus Reviews

"In Search of the Rose Notes feels like a beautifully written secret, whispered into the reader's ear about the lives of two former best friends now tied together only by a mystery. This is a smart, creative and utterly charming novel." - Alafair Burke, author of Long Gone and Angel's Tip

"An enthralling, extremely well-written novel... a definite stay-up-all-nighter. I couldn't rest until I found out what had happened to Rose." - Meg Cabot, author of Abandon and Overbite

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Reader Reviews

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Vera F. (Palmerdale, Alabama)

A Good Read
In Search of the Rose Notes was a very easy to read, compelling story. The action moves from 1990 and back to 2006, but each section is clearly marked and I had no trouble determining when each took place. We meet Nora and Charlotte, who are best friends as children in 1990. Their babysitter after school is Rose, who disappears. This is the mystery that draws them together in as adults. The dialogue for the children, and then for the adults is very realistically rendered. All in all, this was a well-written mystery, if not in the traditional mystery format.

Diana C. (Delray Beach, FL)

A Jewel of a Mystery
If all authors had this gift for character development, every book we read would be a treasured jewel. The obvious draw in this novel is the reader’s ardent desire to find out what happened to Rose, that fateful day. The not-so-obvious draw is the way the author peels away all the layers of the characters, year by year alternating between then and now, keeping us not only engaged but genuinely interested in the ultimate outcome. My favorite book reading genre is historical fiction, but once in a while a mystery comes across my lap that pulls me away from the 17th, 18th or 19th centuries and drops me into a world of intrigue and surprise. If this book had a moral, it would be that sometimes the choices we make have dire consequences.

Kenneth T. (Houston, Tx)

Unraveling the past.
Generally, the use of flashbacks or alternating chapters by time periods are irritating, annoying and a sign of poor writing. "In Search of Rose Notes," does not fall into the latter in spite of the alternative narratives. The contrast presented are different strands of the story and never get in each others way. The author builds the emotional ties to Nora, the putative narrator, by letting us see her at two times of life, and allows the events of an earlier day come clear as she works through the confusion of the past and teenage angst. A good read.

Linda J. (Manchester, MO)

In Search of the Rose Notes
While I found this book rather hard to follow, it did hold my attention. Sometimes I had to keep going back to what I had already read to try and figure out what exactly was going on and why. That makes it hard to get up to speed.

Emily Arsenault tells a story of Charlotte and Nora, two 11-year old friends, and Charlotte’s 16-year old babysitter, Rose. They take delight in dabbling in the supernatural, using old Time-Life books.

One day, Rose disappears. The girls try to uncover the mystery of her disappearance by using their paranormal interests, but an action by Nora causes her to leave the friendship. What follows is a troubling childhood and a suicide attempt when she’s in high school.

Sixteen years later, when Rose’s bones are found, Nora returns home, having left after graduating from high school.

Although she and Charlotte lost touch, Charlotte invites Nora to stay with her. While Charlotte is teaching at the high school, Nora starts looking through old copies of “The Looking Glass,” the high school literary magazine. She runs across some anonymous poems that start a process of her thinking about what really happened to Rose.

Meanwhile Charlotte wants to try again to ferret out the truth. Since Nora was the last person to see Rose alive, and after seeing the poems, Nora is drawn in again, but she battles with the unpleasant memories of her life after Rose’s disappearance.

Told from Nora’s viewpoint, Arsenault goes back and forth in time, from when Rose babysat the girls and to present time when they are trying to figure out what happened.

She throws in a few red herrings, and that makes for an interesting, but not quick, read. The pace goes slow, and that caused my attention to flag many times.
It picked up as the story started on the road to its conclusion, which was unexpected. It did, however, make sense by tying together all the loose ends floating around.

Arsenault tells an unusual story, and if readers stick with it, they will not find it a waste of time.

Vicki O. (Boston, MA)

A Rose is a Rose?
This is not your typical mystery thriller and that’s what makes it such a pleasurable read.
It is really a tale about friendship revisited and secrets surfacing. When Nora and Charlotte were 11, their babysitter, Rose, disappeared and Nora was the last person to see Rose alive. At the time, the two friends tried to find out what happened, using paranormal methods extracted from a set of Time-Life books. Their efforts failed and so did their friendship. Fast forward fifteen years to 2006 when Rose’s bones are discovered and the two friends set out to unravel the mystery surrounding Rose’s murder. The book alternates seamlessly between the past and the present and as the investigation progresses, secrets emerge, resulting in a conclusion that is totally unexpected. This book will not disappoint.

Deborah D. (Newark, CA)

A Good Summer Read
In Search of the Rose Notes is reminiscent of other psychological mysteries (think Carol Goodman). The enjoyment comes through the intermingling of good characters with the tragedy they are all coming to grips with. Nora returns home to discover her small town isn't nearly as smothering and awful as she once believed. At the same time, she must address old childhood and high school relationships while trying to find the answers to a mysterious murder. Good character development and an interesting twist make this book a worthwhile summer read.

...17 more reader reviews

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Emily Arsenault is also the author of The Broken Teaglass, a New York Times 2009 Notable Mystery. She lives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Visit her online at www.emilyarsenault.com.

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