Consumed by the longing for a different life, a teenager flees her family and carefully slips into another—replacing a girl whose own sudden disappearance still haunts the town.

Sarah Elaine Smith paints a raw portrait of a young girl’s life as she shoots from poverty and abandonment to suddenly being showered with food, art, and the maternal love she has longed for her whole life. How did she get all this? By taking over someone else’s life. Reviewers Chris, Jean, and Jody take a bold step into rural Pennsylvania to witness this sudden change—and the repercussions that will no doubt come after. Read their thoughts below.

Portrait of Life and Loneliness

Chris says: The first two pages simmer with a fierce longing to live that is exquisite in its pain and loneliness. […] What is striking in Smith’s writing is her ability to capture rural life in its ruthless and sometimes petty details. Reading this book feels like you are also inhabiting the lives of its characters in the same way that Cindy inhabits Jude’s life.

Jean says: Marilou Is Everywhere is a vaguely disquieting read. Let’s just get that out of the way. It’s a painfully intimate novel about wanting so badly to be anyone, absolutely anyone, but yourself. She is fourteen years old—a horrible age to be in any situation, but made excruciatingly worse by an absentee mother, who leaves her and her two older brothers in poverty in rural Pennsylvania.

Jody says: Living in her humble home with two older brothers, an absentee mother who comes and goes months at a time, and a meager daily income from odd jobs spells out a life of very occasional baths down the river and an eternal craving for love and affection. […] The author is not afraid to show us the grimy and gloomy sides of Cindy’s life up to the smallest detail.

Not Your Usual Missing Person Case

Chris says: While the story is not wholly invested in the missing person case, it becomes the catalyst that reveals the characters’ reaction to the one missing. […] It strips away, slowly, the ugly truths and prejudices of those left behind. And for Cindy, it becomes the perfect opportunity to live out a fantasy of living a life she has always imagined.

Jean says: This isn’t a novel about a missing girl—or maybe it is, but not about the girl you might think. Jude’s disappearance sets the story in motion, but this is Cindy’s story to tell. In Cindy’s eyes, Jude was able to truly exist in the world—the aforementioned Marilou, affecting people even in her absence. In stark contrast, here was Cindy, shy, invisible, untethered to the world by family or friends or anything real.

Jody says: When a girl in their small town goes missing, an unexpected chain of events leads to Cindy standing in as the lost teen to console her mother who has been driven to delusion by grief.

The Verdict

Chris says: Somewhere out there, there are those who would do anything to live someone else’s life. On some days, we wake up feeling that way. And on those days, stories such as this save us because we see our what-ifs reflected on the pages, drinking their words like water in the desert and we get to live through another day.

Jean says: Even as Cindy buries herself deeper and deeper into a lie, author Sarah Elaine Smith remains compassionate, writing with powerful, lyrical prose about the sheer desperation that would drive someone to such an extreme. […] It’s about life’s inherent melancholia, and how it takes a fierce love to be able to fight through it, and simply survive.

Jody says: The story may seem deceptively simple upon reading the blurb at the back of the book, but readers who plan to jump into this novel ought to know that it’s a very layered and not so straightforward read. The author asks for your patience and calls on you to rethink the way you see and understand the world, […] one that might be considered as rough and unrefined—stinky, dim, and dirty—but it is also poignant, comforting, and surprisingly not too different from our very own.

Limited copies of Marilou Is Everywhere is available at Fully Booked branches. Email us to reserve a copy.

Chris has written on Wattpad, yellowpads, and notepads. He works as a Systems Administrator by day and a recluse at night.
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Jean has, at different points in her life, worked in government, interviewed international celebrities, and been the social media manager for several brands.
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Jody is currently an undergraduate student taking up Education and is discovering everyday the greatest bits about reading and learning that fuel our thinking.
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[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]

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