I loved Crouch’s Dark Matter when I read it earlier this year, and so my interest was immediately piqued when Abandon was chosen as December’s read by Janel’s (Keeper of Pages) Criminally Good Book Club.
On Christmas Day in 1893, everyone disappears from the small, remote mining town of Abandon. No belongings were taken, and meals were left half-finished. No one knows why or how they disappeared, and not a single trace of the bodies was ever found.
In 2009, one of Abandon’s leading scholars – Lawrence Foster – visits Abandon with his seemingly estranged daughter, Abigail, and two guides to help them with the difficult journey to Abandon which involves many miles of walking through mountainous terrain. They are joined by another couple – Emmett and June Tozer – paranormal photographers who believe that Abandon will give them a lot of useful material.
They get into trouble as they reach Abandon, however as a blizzard bears down on them, twenty something miles from help.
As I’ve mentioned, I went into this novel with high expectations, and maybe that was part of the problem, because to say that this book fell flat for me is something of an understatement.
Abandon does start out well, and there were elements to the novel that I enjoyed. The narrative switches between Abigail and Lawrence’s party and their journey to the appropriately named mining-town, and 1893, when Abandon wasn’t exactly thriving, but at least lived in. It’s clear in the present-day story that there is more going on than has been made clear to the reader, and I did want to keep reading to find out what was going on, as well as why all those people had vanished 116 years earlier.
Can you feel a “but” coming?
It was extremely difficult to care about the characters in this novel. Abigail, her father and everyone in the present-day story were underdeveloped and one-dimensional, and I didn’t actually care about any of them. The 1893 narrative did have a few interesting characters, but I think that there were so many people that most of the underwhelmed. There were a few stand outs, however – notably Jocelyn, the barkeeper, and Lana, her mute pianist. These two did have some depth and backstory, and, poor Lana! I think that she was the only character I came to care about as the novel progressed.
At some 530 odd pages, Abandon is relatively long, and it felt it, too. I’ve no problem with longer novels, but they do have to keep you engaged either with the story, plot or characters. The only thing that kept me reading this was that I wanted to know what happened in 1893, and why everyone had disappeared so suddenly, to the point where meals were left half-eaten. For me, it was this detail that was most intriguing. But the explanation, when it came, was also a bit of a disappointment.
I also had a number of issues with certain plot elements in the novel, which caused an excessive amount of eye-rolling on my part. I won’t give spoilers, but certain plot developments were just too much. That said, I did like the way in which the present-day story began to echo that of 1893. Because the narrative alternates between the two, this becomes very apparent, and, credit where it’s due, I did like this approach.
I’d be interested to know if anyone else has read this, and how they felt about it. Were my expectations just a little too high, or was this one just not for me?
Rating: ⭐ ⭐