For anyone interested, this is a review of Melissa’s first novel which encompasses a huge learning curve. I reviewed it with that in mind. I have no doubt that she will grow as her career continues but her talent is obvious despite the presence of imperfection however that can be quantified.
In “Chasing Amanda,” Melissa Foster creates a world of surprises, relentless emotion and uneasy terror that this fellow writer completely disappeared into at the onset. The conflicted nature of her chief protagonist, Molly, is evident immediately along with enough background material to set the reader’s curiosity juices on edge. On page one we learn that Molly is a mother, that she’d made an emotional move from Philadelphia to a small town in Maryland due to the death of Amanda, that she is somewhat angst filled for reasons to be discovered, and that she is also very human as exhibited by her self-conscious thought process and her longing for the time when her son, Erik, was a youngster. In a succinct way the reader learns that this is a character with complex personality traits and we have just met her. That’s as effective an act of setting the hook as can be accomplished. Other characters in the book are also imbued with their own equally intriguing qualities that are also well explained as the mystery unfolds.
Particularly appealing to this reader was the novel’s wording. Melissa Foster did what I strive to do when I write, and that is make the words flow effortlessly so that they don’t get in the way of the story. Simply put, writers can sometimes forget that they are creating for an audience that wants more than anything to disappear into a good story and forget the world around them. I’ve been reminded by certain readers to remain unnamed both subtly and otherwise that no one cares about your “writer’s” vocabulary if it doesn’t fit the story and make it better. Melissa nailed it in “Chasing Amanda.” My only complaint (this is a review and not my personal I admire Melissa party after all) was that I wanted more fleshing out of some of the scenes in the book, particularly towards the end where there was a slight feel of rushing. I realize this was probably due to editing which is a writer’s bane. I know that word and page counts are a necessary evil but as a reader I don’t ever care how long a story is if it’s a great one, think Ken Follett and his thousand page manifests. Simply put, Melissa, you are a great story teller and I wanted more.
In the area of developing character relationships is where Melissa shone most in my opinion. Molly and Cole’s tension-filled interactions are the highlight in this area, but Pastor Lett and Rodney get equal care as do all the other personalities involved. All of whom are relevant and central to the plot which keeps the intrigue and suspense building percolating as the reader wonders how all of this will be tied together in the end. It’s a very real and effective treatment of the tender subject of the personal loss and grief caused by child abductions in a world that is too often unfeelingly callous and unforgiving.
Besides being an engaging, heartfelt tale, “Chasing Amanda” was embedded with enough twists and plot surprises to make the story unpredictable like real life which is the point. I won’t give away too much by rehashing major events because I don’t enjoy reviews that do that and take away the joy I get reading a particular work and discovering for myself. (There are enough reviews on Amazon and elsewhere that will give anyone looking more of an outline if that’s what they want) What I will say to the potential reader out there is that Melissa Foster is a writer with imagination, skill and the ability to get inside her characters and shape a story. She’s already a star and in my opinion will become an enormously larger one as her writing career progresses. I will be reading her other works as well so I can contrast them, but mainly to enjoy what she’s created. Fabulous (first) work Melissa.