I had forgotten that My Abandonment was largely based on a true story. (The author's website
has .pdf copies of the articles he was drawing from.) Somebody from Oregon, and maybe the Pacific Northwest in general, might remember when this was in the news, but I wasn't familiar with it. The second half of the book is Rock's imagined version of what might have happened to Frank and Ruthie (in this book, the girl is called Caroline, and her father goes by several names) after they vanished.
Entirely told in Caroline's straightforward, even oddly matter-of-fact voice, My Abandonment is a look at a life that's perfectly, entirely normal to Caroline and completely alien to me and most readers. She and her father live in a hidden camp in a national park, apparently living off of his military pension. It's definitely a strange way of life, but her father obviously loves her very much, in his own way, and has been trying to provide for her, in his own way. It's pointed out that Caroline is very bright and has been remarkably well-educated, mostly from reading encyclopedias. And yet, bright as she is, there's also an emotional strangeness to her voice, probably from being a teenager with the same level of exposure to society at large as a small child would. I liked that she was by no means a weak character, even though she did defer to her father.
Later in the book, Rock weaves in a few strands of story from the Elizabeth Smart case, which I'm uncomfortable about. Ruthie and Frank are real people, after all, and presumably still alive. I am not comfortable with writing a book transparently and obviously based on their life stories and adding an entirely new element to it. It's heavily, heavily implied, though never outright stated, that Caroline's "father" actually kidnapped her as a small child and raised her to believe that she was his daughter. Yes, he has artistic license in telling his version of the story, but it's a step too far in a book about obviously real and probably still living people. Actually, this probably wouldn't bother me if the first half of the book weren't so closely, even exactly, based on Ruthie and Frank's story.
I wouldn't call the ending satisfactory, but it certainly felt realistic to me. It seems like, on some level, Caroline knows and understands that her father isn't her father, but she hasn't fully accepted it. Which makes sense to me. Without help, it would be very hard for her to break through that level of indoctrination. And probably the idea of facing the truth would be frightening for her.
Ultimately, My Abandonment is a memorable, bittersweet book with an unforgettable narrator. I've seen a few books with this sort of off-the-grid theme for young adults ([b:Alabama Moon|554165|Alabama Moon|Watt Key|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1316728474s/554165.jpg|541392], for example) and this was the best one that I've read yet.