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In Search of the Rose Notes: A Novel

In Search of the Rose Notes: A Novel

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In Search of the Rose Notes: A Novel

4/5 (27 évaluations)
383 pages
4 heures
Jul 26, 2011


“A very clever wordsmith.”
New York Times Book Review

“When Emily Arsenault was growing up, a teacher told the fifth-grader she was very good at writing. Give that teacher an A.”
Hartford Courant

Emily Arsenault’s compelling debut, Broken Teaglass, was resoundingly praised (“Quirky and inventive...meets all the definitions of a good read.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch). With her intelligent, complex, and ingeniously crafted sophomore offering, In Search of the Rose Notes, Arsenault validates her standing as an exhilarating new voice in contemporary fiction. A moody and engrossing mystery, In Search of the Rose Notes follows two best friends from childhood who once unsuccessfully investigated the disappearance of their teenage babysitter, and now, in their twenties, attempt once again to uncover the truth.  Readers who love the literary, female focused mysteries of Laura Lippman, Tana French, and Jennifer McMahon will be thrilled to add Emily Arsenault to their must-read lists.

Jul 26, 2011

À propos de l'auteur

Emily Arsenault is also the author of The Evening Spider, The Broken Teaglass, In Search of the Rose Notes, Miss Me When I’m Gone, What Strange Creatures, and the young adult novel The Leaf Reader. She lives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter.

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In Search of the Rose Notes - Emily Arsenault




A man is about to get on a routine flight.

Suddenly, he pauses. He doesn’t know why—but he’s got to walk away.

An hour later the plane goes down in flames.

It’s dismissed as chance. . . .

—Time-Life Books commercial, circa 1987

When I was a kid, I used to stop cold whenever one of those commercials came on. If I was drowsing to my mother’s game shows, I’d jolt awake, sit up straight, and listen. If I was playing with my Spirograph on the floor, I’d stop, stare, and let my colored pen go loose in my hand. If I was getting a snack in the kitchen, I’d run back to the living room to watch. Like the Pied Piper, the spooky synthesizer music drew me in, and the stories told by the priestly sounding narrator gripped me long after the commercial was over—usually past bedtime. I’d lie awake thinking of the woman with the prophetic dream of schoolchildren dying in an avalanche. The matching drawings of aliens produced by abductees who’d never met. The man who points a clover-shaped wire at Stonehenge, feels an inexplicable surge throughout his body, then faints. And I couldn’t dismiss any of it.

There are so many hints of a world more remarkable than we ever imagined, and of abilities that we barely suspect. Send for your first volume on a trial basis and see if you can explain these things away. . . .

It wasn’t until we were eleven that Charlotte and I learned that her older brother, Paul, had had several of the books in his bedroom for years. All this time we’d been passing his room, holding our noses against the smell of dirty shirts and rotting dregs of milk shakes—and this treasure had been buried there. It was like finding a sacred scroll in the Dumpster behind Denny’s. Turns out he’d bought a subscription with some paper-route money but eventually canceled it when he got tired of the books, which weren’t actually that great, he said. And now he was cleaning out his bedroom, making space for a stereo he planned to buy, and was going to chuck the books if Charlotte didn’t want them.

Charlotte kept her fifteen treasured volumes at the bottom of a cardboard box in her closet, covered with a stack of Highlights magazines. The books were beautiful. The textured black covers with the silver lettering made them feel very official and adult, like a high-school yearbook. And the smell of the thick, glossy pages reminded me of new textbooks at school—which confirmed the seriousness of their contents. Besides, it seemed that Paul had barely cracked them. The text was difficult, but Charlotte used her top reading-group skills to decipher a few pages nearly every night. She found the most important and interesting bits for me. Plus, there were lots of pictures. Almost every day after school, we pored over the books, boring Charlotte’s beautiful teenage baby-sitter—Rose, with the dirty-blond hair and even dirtier mouth—practically to death.

But then Rose disappeared in November of our sixth-grade year, making the books even more vital to us—no longer a mere source of entertainment but an investigative guide. By then we knew better than the neighbors who whispered runaway and the police who let her trail go cold. We knew better than to stop at what people aren’t willing to talk about. The commercials had explained that there is much that is unknown but promised that the books would tell us at least what could be known. And Charlotte and I took them at their word.

Visions and Prophecies:

November 1990

After Rose disappeared, Charlotte’s parents never found a replacement baby-sitter. Either they were hoping that Rose would return any day or they’d finally figured out that Charlotte was old enough to take care of herself for a couple of hours each afternoon before Paul arrived home from soccer practice.

I’m still worried about Rose, Charlotte told me about a week after the disappearance had hit the news. We were sitting cross-legged on her bed, playing a halfhearted round of Rack-O.

Everybody is, I said.

Her picture was in the paper again this morning.

I know, I replied, a little annoyed. Sometimes Charlotte acted like I lived in a cave.

I don’t think we should just be sitting here playing games. I think we should be helping them find her.

I wasn’t surprised when Charlotte went to the corner of the closet where she kept her black books. Sighing, I reshuffled the Rack-O cards. I wasn’t in the mood for the black books just now. And I wasn’t sure I could handle the darkness of their contents without Rose’s sarcasm there to lighten it up.

But the picture Charlotte held out to me was a beautiful one, unlike anything she’d ever shown me in the books before. An African woman was sitting in deep orange sand, her shadow extended behind her. Before her were two long rows of flattened sand, each about three feet wide. Within each row was a symmetrical series of boxes, drawn with raised sand borders. Some of the boxes had sand symbols built in them—small spherical mounds, clusters of craters, finger-drawn horseshoes and crosses. Some boxes were left blank. Little sticks stuck out of a few spots on the grid. It looked like a hopscotch court, except more delicate, more beautiful, and far more important.

It’s used to predict things. It’s used by a tribe in Africa called the Dogon, Charlotte explained, pronouncing the tribe name like doggone. They leave it like that at night and wait for a sand fox to come and walk over it. They read the footprints—which boxes he walks in.

What if a different animal comes? I asked, not so much because I cared but because it seemed like something Rose would have said if she were around.

I’m not sure, Charlotte admitted. But the sand fox is sort of magical.

I nodded and looked back at the photo. I wished they’d also included a picture of a sand fox.

I thought we should do one for Rose, Charlotte said. We should do one to help find out where Rose is.

Yeah, I agreed. That sounds good.

In the backyard, don’t you think? There’s the spot under the tree where the grass never grows.

Sure. Wherever.

Or in your yard, maybe? Charlotte suggested. There’s lots of patches that don’t have grass.

Mrs. Crowe would kill me, and then my mother would kill me again. Mrs. Crowe’s really weird about her yard. She has dreams about dogs in her yard and then wakes up in the morning and goes out to look for the imaginary poops she thinks they left.

"You’re so weird, Nora."

"I’m not. It’s her. Charlotte didn’t understand the politics of living in a two-family house. She knew nothing of grumpy old landladies. I’m not making that up."

We’ll do it in my yard, then.

It doesn’t say here what the different symbols mean.

We’ll have to think up our own, Charlotte said. Ones that say stuff about Rose.

And since we don’t have any sand foxes around, what do we do? Wait for a dog to come by? I asked.

Funny that our road’s called Fox Hill and there are no foxes around.

Probably there used to be foxes, I said. Probably they shot them all.

Who? Charlotte asked, taking the book from me.

I don’t know. The Pilgrims. The pioneers.

Oh. Yeah, probably. Well, I was thinking we could try to get Rose’s cat over here to walk on it. Wouldn’t that make more sense than Brownie, or just any old dog or cat? Rose’s cat probably senses things about Rose.

I don’t know if Rose was very close with her cat. She never talked about him.

Teenagers don’t talk about their pets, Charlotte snapped at me, as if this were common knowledge. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love him.

Charlotte and I bundled up and went outside to the grassless patch we’d discussed. Charlotte had brought a sketch pad for practicing symbols. She sat scribbling beneath the big maple tree while I started digging in the dirt with a garden shovel that Charlotte had found in the garage. I scratched at the ground to loosen it and in some places shoveled scoops of dirt around to even out the area.

You can make it bigger, Charlotte said, erasing something on her pad. There’s hardly any grass on that side, so it doesn’t really matter if you dig into it a little.


I cleared a rectangle of about three by five feet and then split it lengthwise with a one-inch ditch. Then I joined Charlotte, sitting on the long root of the maple.

This is what I have so far, she said. I think we should use the top box for ‘Where,’ the bottom one for ‘When.’ Where she is and when she’s coming back.


And here are some of the symbols we can use. She let me take the sketch pad from her.

I pointed at the first symbol. A rectangle with a small tail on its lower left side.

Still in Connecticut, Charlotte explained.

I nodded, recognizing the shape of the state. We’d had to draw it about a hundred times in fourth grade. I moved my finger to a crudely drawn airplane.

Far away, Charlotte said. In a different state.

A Saturn-like symbol. Aliens took her. Outer space.

I looked up. Aliens? That’s not funny. That’s stupid.

The way she talked about it, I just thought we should include it.


Four vertical lines: She’s stuck somewhere, and she’s trying to get back. The lines are like prison.

I stiffened, trying not to picture Rose in a prison, or worse.

A stick figure with a few lines of hair flying behind, arms out. Smudged on the bottom because Charlotte had erased and redrawn the legs a few times to perfect the angles of legs in a running motion.

She ran away, Charlotte said.

I nodded and moved down to the When symbols.

A moon and sun: Tonight.

A cross: Before Sunday.

A Christmas tree: Before Christmas.

A small grid of squares: Not for a long time. That’s a calendar. Many days.

That’s it? I said.

That’s all I have so far. You can add some if you want.

I handed the pad back to her. Something was missing. I wasn’t sure if it belonged in Where or When. It would be a pretty easy symbol to do. A skull and crossbones or the horseshoe hump of a gravestone.

I stared at Charlotte. I felt nauseous, but her face showed only curiosity.

What is it? she said.

But what about . . . ?

Charlotte cocked her head, waiting. Maybe we just weren’t going to say it. Like when I said something especially gloomy to my mother, about rain on parades or squirrels choking on acorns or whatever it might be, and she’d say, We’re not going to think about that, Nora. So this was something similar. We weren’t going to think about it, and we certainly weren’t going to talk about it.

Nothing, I said, kneeling in the first dirt rectangle. I was grateful to have something to do to take my mind off what we weren’t going to think about. I put my hands in the dirt, smoothing it with my fingers, and then set to work. Mashing the soil together with my index fingers, I raised the frames of the first row of boxes.

Chapter One

May 18, 2006

Fitting that Charlotte would call while I was doing nothing. When we were kids, she was always saving me from nothing. What are you doing? Nothing. And compared to Charlotte’s house, with its big brother, its basketball hoop, its VCR, its trampoline, and its pantry full of Oreos, my place really was nothing. You wanna come over? Nothing but an apartment with neatly dusted hardwood floors, a grainy television without a cable box, a crotchety old landlady downstairs, and a single mother who prided herself on getting five meals out of a single chicken. Did I want to come over? Back then the answer was always yes.

This time when Charlotte called, I was sitting at my wheel in the garage, staring at a sketch I’d done a week earlier—of a squat teapot with a wide, round handle. I’d nearly sat down twice to make it, and twice I’d found myself distracted by something more pressing—a bill I’d forgotten to pay, the lawn I’d meant to mow.

Now I gazed at the freshly wedged lump of clay in my hands. I hadn’t much else to do but throw it down and get started. My grades were submitted, the laundry was done, and this had been my plan all along. Same as last year. Spend the summer throwing like crazy so I’d have lots to sell through Christmas, even if my teaching didn’t allow me much time at the wheel in the fall. It had worked beautifully last year. But this year I just wasn’t getting into it the way I had. Neil and I no longer really needed my meager profits from the craft fairs and farmers’ markets—and maybe I didn’t need any more compliments from hemp-skirted ladies and their gentle, bearded husbands. Not to mention that I was a little tired of my quaint teapots and teacups. While I had nothing against quaintness, I wasn’t sure I wished to generate it anymore.

I considered ignoring the phone when it rang. Clearly I was having the sort of existential moment a career in ceramics is supposed to protect you from. If I focused, if I made myself stay in the garage, I could work through it. If I simply ignored everything else and got the wheel spinning, I’d probably just forget about it.

After the third ring, I jumped up and ran for the door to the house.


Hello? Nora? I felt oddly relieved by the sound of her voice even before I knew who it was. It’s Charlotte Hemsworth.

Charlotte? I repeated. HEY!


"Wow. How are you?

Charlotte hesitated. Not so bad. And you? I heard you and your husband bought a house.

Umm, yeah.

I looked around the living room skeptically. It had been five months since we’d painted these crisp yellow walls. Neil had assured me that we’d feel better about our color choice once we filled the living room with furniture and hung some pictures on the wall to break it up. But we’d done all that and I still wasn’t convinced.

Charlotte was silent on the other end.

How’d you hear about the house? I asked.

I called your mom, and she told me. That’s how I got your number. She’s easier to find than you are. Your old number didn’t work.

My e-mail’s still the same, though.

I didn’t want to e-mail you, Nora. I wanted to talk to you.

Well, that’s nice. I’m glad you—

Nora, she interrupted.


They found her.

Found . . . who?


I had a flash of Rose walking into the Waverly police station, her dark blond hair still brushing her shoulders, her wide-necked purple sweatshirt still hanging off one shoulder, exposing her exotically black bra strap. Smelling of the Love’s drugstore perfume that was supposed to cover up the smell of her cigarettes. That stone-washed jean jacket tied around her waist. Her face about fifteen years older. Or—had it been more than fifteen years?

Oh, my God, I whispered, my heart now racing. Is she—

They found her body, I mean. Bones.

I leaned against the wall, pushing the phone so hard against my ear that it hurt.

Nora? Charlotte said.

I tried to picture what Charlotte might look like at this very moment. Sitting at her parents’ old kitchen table, surrounded by that ugly mauve wallpaper with the ribboned clusters of white flowers. Saying my name so gently into the phone, as if coaxing me there for another sleepover, promising no scary movies this time. A promise she never seemed to keep.

I’m here, I said. Sort of. How do they know it’s her?

Something about a bracelet, clothing fibers. . . . Listen, I’m e-mailing you an article. I just didn’t want to surprise you with it.

Listening to Charlotte, I could almost smell her mother’s Pall Malls. That kitchen was where I was supposed to be when we found Rose—not in this perky little bungalow where Neil and I had accidentally painted every room one shade too bright.

I heard Charlotte take a breath.

Where, Charlotte?

I’m at home, Charlotte said vaguely.

No. Where did they find her?

Near the pond. Adams Pond.

But . . . didn’t they comb that area when we were kids? A few times, even?

I’m not sure. But yeah. I thought so.

Was she buried really deep? I mean, how did they know to dig there?

"Nobody knew anything. Some kids just . . . found her. There was something sticking out of the ground, I guess, and . . . well, I’m not sure. My friend Porter’s done the first couple of stories for the paper, but the police aren’t giving out that many details."

Your friend Porter?

"From when I worked at the Voice," Charlotte said with a sigh.

Oh, I said.

Of course there are all sorts of rumors. I’m not sure how accurate it is, but one scuttlebutt is that the body was moved there. Recently.

I slid down the wall until I was sitting on the floor. But that’s . . . crazy. That’s impossible.

I know.

Now that I was seated, I took a deep breath and tried to get my head around it: Yes, this was real. I was talking to Charlotte again. About Rose. But then, what else did we have to talk about except Rose? We’d politely pretended otherwise for years, but Rose was really the only thing we could still have in common.

Are you all right, Nora? she asked.

Yeah, I said.

Are you near a computer?

No. Why?

I’m sending you the article just now.

You want me to read it right now?

Well . . . if you want.

Charlotte’s sideways insistence was familiar and therefore comforting.

Give me a few minutes, I said. I’ll call you back.

I opened my laptop and found her e-mail sitting there, dated just one minute before now. The link was to an article in the Voice. I had no idea my old hometown paper had gone high-tech.



WAVERLY—The bones found last week near Adams Pond are likely those of Waverly resident Rose Banks, who has been missing since 1990, according to police.

It’s still quite early in the investigation, but we now believe that this could be Rose Banks. We’ve already spoken to the family, and if it is her, we hope that this will give them some closure in what has been a painful case, Waverly police chief Carl Fisher said during a press conference yesterday.

The skeletal remains, along with Banks’s dental records, have been sent to a forensics lab in Hartford for further testing, which could take several weeks. Tolland County coroner Donald Campbell, in a preliminary investigation, identified the skeletal remains as belonging to a female between the ages of fifteen and twenty, which have been decomposing for at least ten years, Chief Fisher said.

The body was found Thursday near Adams Pond by two boys who were fishing there. Local and state police closed off the entire pond area to search for additional clues.

This discovery reopens Banks’s sixteen-year-old case, the only missing-person case ever reported in town history. Banks, age sixteen, was last seen on the evening of November 15, 1990, walking home from a baby-sitting job in her Fox Hill neighborhood. Police and town residents searched for weeks but found no clues suggesting her whereabouts.

With the help of Detective Tracy Vaughan of the state police cold-case unit, we’re going over every detail of the case to make sure we didn’t miss anything. We’ll likely reinterview many of Miss Banks’s friends and associates, and we would be grateful to speak to anyone else who might know something about this case, Chief Fisher said.

So it was real. They’d found Rose. After all these years. As I read the article again, I had a feeling that my wheel wouldn’t be spinning for another week at least. I knew I needed to see Charlotte, and she needed to see me.

Psychic Powers:

August 1990

It was Charlotte’s idea to make the Zener cards. Like all her projects that summer, the idea came out of the Time-Life books. We pronounced them ZEE-ner cards. Rose managed to turn the making of the cards into a two-afternoon affair—one for walking a mile and a half into town to Rite Aid for a pack of three-by-five cards, the other for carefully crayoning thick black circles, squares, crosses, stars, and (the most fun, but also the most difficult) three-lined psychedelic squiggles. Rose rejected our early attempts, insisting that the waves needed to be parallel and that sloppiness might confuse the mind and skew our results.

On the third day of the project, Rose finally shuffled the cards and laid them out for us. She’d been designated for this task since she was, for all intents and purposes, the grown-up. Charlotte and I would take turns guessing the symbols on the overturned cards and recording each other’s results. On the first try, I got ten out of twenty-five. Charlotte got four. On my second round, I noticed Rose’s face changing before some of my guesses. Her mouth opened round before a circle; her head bobbled lazily before the wavy lines. Once she was certain I’d noticed it, the gestures became subtler—a slight movement of the mouth for a circle, a twitch of the chin for the squiggles. For stars, squares, and crosses, she offered no help, keeping her face motionless and her eyes slanted toward the ceiling in an exaggerated expression of disinterest.

Wow. Rose raised her eyebrows at Charlotte when my second and third rounds turned out an impressive thirteen and eleven respectively.

Through Rose’s facial codes, I noticed a helpful pattern—more often than not, she put squiggly lines on the edges and circles somewhere in the center of the five-card rows. Her hints weren’t always discernible, and sometimes Charlotte’s intense gaze made it impossible to sneak a look at her. But overall the help made my results significantly higher than Charlotte’s. As my psychic superiority became apparent, Charlotte was clearly perplexed. Instead of scrutinizing us, however, she simply focused harder on her own guesses. Frowning and uncharacteristically silent, she was determined to reverse the results. She had apparently been certain that she’d be the psychic one. We knew this without ever hearing her say it. Whenever a situation allowed for someone to be the winner, or to be special, Charlotte inevitably—and usually effortlessly—fell into the role.

Rose and I never discussed our cheating or adjusted the methods—even when we could have, when Charlotte was in the bathroom or fetching more graham crackers out of the pantry. I never understood why we were doing it. It wasn’t to laugh at Charlotte or to trick her. I wouldn’t even say Rose liked me better than she liked Charlotte. She didn’t have enough interest in either of us to form a preference.

Your psi seems stronger for round and wavy lines, Charlotte observed after about three afternoons of repeated testing.

I bit my lip and looked at Rose for help.

Probably she’s using her right brain more, Rose said quickly.

What does that mean? Charlotte asked.

I learned about it in school, Rose explained. The left brain is more like the science and math part. The right brain is, like, the soft stuff. Art and poetry and stuff. I’m right-brained, I think. My sister’s left-brained. Nora’s probably right-brained.

What do you think I am? Charlotte wanted to know.

I’m not sure. What do you like better, math or language arts?

I like both.

Well. Then you’re neither-brained.

Or both-brained, Charlotte suggested.

Rose gathered up the cards, looking bored. Another round? she asked, shuffling.

This time with Pepsi, Charlotte suggested, and then she explained to us her latest finding in the black books. Experiments performed by J. B. Rhine in the 1930s indicated that people’s ESP and psychokinetic abilities improved after they’d drunk caffeinated sodas. After hearing this explanation, Rose let us raid Charlotte’s dad’s impressive Pepsi supply in the pantry.

If anyone asks, I drank most of it and you guys each just had a glass, Rose called from the living room as Charlotte and I chugged in the kitchen.

I thought I sensed in that statement Rose’s desire to have a little Pepsi herself. As Charlotte refilled my glass, I stepped tentatively into the living room to ask her if she wanted any. When I saw her slip a few cigarettes out of Charlotte’s mom’s coffee-table pack, I crept back into the kitchen for my second glass.

The Pepsi results were inconclusive. Charlotte’s performance improved slightly but remained just under chance. Mine stayed the same.

Nora’s looks like a pretty pure power, Rose said. Kind of a steady, unshakable vision.

Charlotte sucked on a lock of her reddish hair. She looked wounded, but just for a moment. When her eyes met mine, she pulled the hair out of her mouth and gave me an admiring smile.

Yes, she said, tucking the lock behind her ear. It looks like it.

Chapter Two

May 21, 2006

I drove up to Waverly on Sunday. It would be an ideal evening for me to arrive, Charlotte had said, since she would be around and her mother wouldn’t. That same day her mother was leaving to visit her sister in New Jersey for a week.

I’d explained it this way to Neil: that Charlotte had gotten in touch, that someone we both used to know—someone older than us—had died, that it just seemed the right time to reconnect. Neil was aware of Charlotte’s existence—remembered snatches of childhood stories that contained her name, had signed Christmas cards I’d addressed to her. And he remembered her from our wedding.

I didn’t think you were that close, though, he’d said.

He was right about that—we weren’t close. We hadn’t even been close in high school. While I steeped in my own shy gloom for most of those years, Charlotte was relatively popular from all her various clubs and athletics. But Charlotte had made sure we’d never lost touch. We sort of reconnected right around our high-school graduation, had coffee a few times. Then Charlotte had written me letters in college—beautiful letters, her small but sweeping script always in blue felt-tipped pen. I’d been uncertain of what to write back, and I couldn’t seem to make my college life sound or look so elegant on paper. I felt guilty for my sporadic response, but also relieved to have my last connection with Waverly dwindle to nearly nothing. Soon after, our relationship became a series of sporadic e-mails and a very occasional coffee in Hartford on the rare occasions I visited my mom in Connecticut.

Neil’s eyebrow had also arched at my plans to head to Waverly for a few days. My mother had moved out of town the year after I’d gone to college, and he knew I didn’t have much affection for the place. I quickly explained that it was just about getting away, really. I wouldn’t be teaching that glaze-chemistry class for another month. My plan, as he knew, was to throw all early summer to build up my stock for the summer and fall markets and shows. But last year I’d gone overboard and made more than I could sell, remember? And a whole month alone in the garage with my wheel? Was that really healthy?

Neil had agreed with that sentiment. Finding him satisfied, I decided not to explain to him about Rose—that she’d been Charlotte’s baby-sitter, that she’d disappeared one day on her way home from Charlotte’s, that I was probably the last person to see her alive.

As I drove up I-95, I considered why I’d never told

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  • (4/5)
    IN SEARCH OF THE ROSE NOTES begins with eleven-year-old friends, Nora and Charlotte, and their teenaged babysitter, Rose, investigating the paranormal through the Time-Life book series. When Rose disappears, Charlotte and Nora again turn to the otherworldly to search for clues. Nora suffers through her status as "last to see Rose alive" and escapes the oppressive hometown, while Charlotte stays right where she is. When Rose's body is found sixteen years later, Nora reluctantly returns home to stay with her estranged friend. Charlotte wants them to pick up their investigation where it left off, and they deal with Rose's loss in very different ways. The novel unfolds with flashbacks to 1990 interspersed with the events after Rose's body is found. The integration of past and present is very well-done and reflects Nora's reluctance to remember (or acknowledge) some of the questions she had when Rose disappeared. As the mystery of Rose's fate unfolds, Charlotte and Nora's reunion proceeds with awkwardness realistic for two people who were once close. The differences between the two friends as children and as adults make this a particularly nuanced novel, and Arsenault's investigation into the adults children become is fascinating and not intrusive. This is a well-plotted mystery and a unique coming-of-age story. My only complaint is the title, which implies that there are some notes that are the subject of a search. I will spare you the annoyance of wondering when these notes might be mentioned by telling you that they aren't the focus of the novel's unfolding plot.Source disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.
  • (4/5)
    "When we were kids, she was always saving me from nothing"When Nora and Charlotte's babysitter goes missing, the two girls turn to psychic interventions to find out what happened to her, but fail. Rose's bones turn up fifteen years later, and Nora feels compelled to return to her hometown and try once more to solve the mystery.The mystery is skilfully managed, with a few hints along the way, but a full analysis is only possible when the final reveal is made. In a sense, all of the girls' supernatural-themed activities are irrelevant, but the important material at that point is actually the girls' behaviour. The small-town intrigue and schoolyard manipulation is also carefully constructed.The mystery of what actually happened to Rose is very much secondary to the drama of the interpersonal interactions. Nora seems to be a partly unreliable narrator, and it is only through her interactions with Charlotte and Toby that we find out what went on at school.Arsenault has picked out an interesting cast - no one is even close to perfect. Nora was a painfully quiet child, a troubled teen, and appears to be a slightly unreliable adult narrator. Charlotte was a spoilt, bratty child, and having lost her journalistic job for misbehaviour, is now a smoking, drinking, dissatisfied English teacher at the very same high school that the girls attended. Toby's a bit slow, but on the whole very likeable and kind. The parents all have their individual issues to keep them separate in the reader's mind.Every now and again, Arsenault would bring out a pretty phrase or a clever piece of wording:"Fitting that Charlotte would call while I was doing nothing. When we were kids, she was always saving me from nothing. 'What are you doing? Nothing' ""I scoffed at this weird notion, this mystical time and place - age eighteen - in which I'd wear a bikini and my mother could not tell me what to do. Atlantis seemed more probable and more reachable"" 'Never again' was a dull kick in the stomach, but 'forever' was a spinning nausea""What was I still doing here, picking at some crusty old high-school scab?""What Toby described had to have occurred several days ago for the meat loaf to achieve its rock like quality. It made me want to giggle. You could put this pan in a museum and call it 'Bachelorhood' "and one of the main criticisms of this novel is that Arsenault clearly knows how to write, but didn't want to include too much 'flowery language' for fear of disturbing the plot. I would have liked to see her including more.I really enjoyed this book, and while it's not perfect, I would definitely be interested in reading more of this author's writing.This novel had one of the cutest acknowledgements I've read in a while:"Thank you for everything, dear Ross - but especially for your patient multiple readings despite my stubborn refusal to add explosions, cowboys, or rescue dogs" Additional info:I received this as a PDF from the publisher through NetGalley
  • (2/5)
    I picked this up because I've really enjoyed several others of this author's works. This one, however, I just found incredibly sad. All the characters, both before and after Rose's disappearance, were deeply broken. There wasn't a moment of lightness in the whole book. Writing was good, but I had to go sit outside on the dock, and feel the breeze on my face, the sun on my shoulders, to lift the darkness. Which only goes to show that though I found the book morose, the writing was evocative.Why do so many books of late name a character Rose? This must be the eleventh or twelfth read, in recent memory, to do so.Tags: a-favorite-author, made-me-sad, read, thank-you-charleston-county-library, thought-i-was-gonna-like
  • (2/5)
    I didn't like this book as much as I had hoped. While I did enjoy Arsenault's writing style, I found the text to be undeveloped and anti-climatic.
  • (4/5)
    Charlotte and Nora were tween girls when their babysitter Rose suddenly went missing. As the girls and Rose had an ongoing obsession with the paranormal via the Time Life Book Series: Mysteries of the Unknown, the girls attempted to get answers about Rose's disappearance by contacted the spiritworld. Years later, after Rose's skeleton was discovered, Rose and Charlotte meet again to put together the pieces of what might have happened to Rose. Alternating between the early 90's when Rose disappeared and the present day, the story gradually comes together in a somewhat anticlimatic manner.This book kept my interest but was not particularly suspenseful. I would have preferred a little more danger and suspense to move the story along.
  • (4/5)
    When I started this book, I really had no idea what it was about or what to expect. I requested it ages ago and have only just gotten around to reading it (obviously). Well, I was completely blown away. I didn't have high expectations, but the book kept drawing me in. The writing and the narrative style were utterly captivating.

    The narrative alternates between Nora's present (2006) and her past (1996). This gives a good view into what happened then, along with the knowledge only a grown up can bring to the situation. The story lines from her childhood dovetail perfectly with the present happenings.

    While the whole book has a spooky feel to it, there is little of the horrible in it. Mostly, the book just left me thinking about how fragile people are and what a huge impact actions can have. This is one of those books that I find myself having difficulty explaining, because I was more caught up in the beauty of the writing and the fascination of the relationships between people than something particularly dramatic in the tale, and those that I could relate would be spoilers.

    Anyway, I heartily recommend this to anyone interested in ghosts, mysteries, or the difficulty in considering the events of youth from a mature perspective. This was a truly beautiful and tragic story.
  • (4/5)
    This was a fast and fun read for me. It read similarly to The Lovely Bones, except you don't really get the insight into Rose and her life/death (until the end) that you get throughout Lovely Bones. I shelved it as mystery, but it is definitely a subdued mystery, not a high tension everything-at-stake mystery.

    I read this fairly fast, and I found myself really wanting to know what happened to Rose. I formed theories and most of them were wrong.

    The characters of Charlotte and Nora were real and believable in how they interacted with each other. Charlotte is bossy and overbearing and Nora is very withdrawn. Both are flawed and neither is particularly endearing, but overall it works.

    I also shelved this as young adult, though it is kind of an in-between book, as it utilizes flashbacks quite heavily.
  • (4/5)
    This retrospective novel follows Nora and her childhood friend, Charlotte, as they revisit the unsolved disappearance of their babysitter, Rose. As children Nora and Charlotte were fascinated by their teenage babysitter. Rose had all the cache of adolescence, but one day on her way home from Charlotte's house she disappeared. In the wake of the disappearance Nora and Charlotte try all sorts of paranormal methods to divine Rose's location. Much of this centers on their fascination with the Time-Life series of books on the supernatural, the ones that were constantly advertised on television in the early-1990s. Nora is disturbed by their forays into the supernatural, but Charlotte is older, wealthier, and bossier, so they continue. As adults Charlotte is still annoying. I couldn't figure out why Nora was so willing to spend time with her and share her secrets. It's understandable as children, but it made little sense as adults. We do ultimately discover what happened to Rose, but not before coming to the conclusion that Charlotte really needs to go away.
  • (5/5)
    In 1990, eleven-year-old Nora and Charlotte were best friends in Waverly, Connecticut, spending hours at Charlotte's home playing games and perusing the history of paranormal and dream analysis theories in Charlotte's brother's discarded Time-Life books to pass time until Nora's departure to coincide with her working mother's return. When babysitter Rose, an abundantly superior high school teenager whose savoir faire and infamously loose language enters their lives, she captivates and also exacerbates the subtle competitive discord between Nora and Charlotte.Within these small town routines and boundaries, the unimaginable happens; walking home with Nora and after saying good-bye, Rose mysteriously vanishes. Nora, especially distraught as the last person to see Rose alive, joins Charlotte in exploring paranormal methodology to determine her fate. Unsuccessful and frustrated in their somewhat unorthodox attempts, years pass without any leads or answers as Nora and Charlotte drift apart. In 2006, Rose's remains are discovered not far from Nora's childhood home. Nora returns to Waverly in search of unanswered questions, ambivalently succumbing to Charlotte's overbearing claims that they alone have sufficient evidence and the requisite skills to solve Rose's disappearance and manner of death. Emily Arsenault's narrative deftly transitions from the present to the past, authentically capturing Nora's adolescent angst and adult resistance to resurrect old wounds, Charlotte's alarming descent into small town anonymity, an adult living in her parents' home, and weaving a psychologically complex and engrossing web of unraveling secrets which lead to a shocking unforeseen conclusion.
  • (3/5)
    I did enjoy the flashback parts of the book. The author could have done a much better job with using the Time Life books. There was a lot of potential in this story. It just never got there for me. The ending was super disappointing. A major letdown. This story had so much potential to be so much better it almost seemed as if the author didn't know how to bring it all together in the end.
  • (4/5)
    Early Reviewer win.Charlotte and Nora are best friends. Nora, who is the daughter of a single mother, often hangs out at Charlotte's after school, while Rose babysits for them. But then Rose goes missing one day. And while some of the town feel she's run away, Nora is pretty sure she's still around, but not exactly living. Charlotte, using her Time-Life secrets of the supernatural books, is determined to find out what really happened to Rose.Nearly twenty years later, Nora has left the town of Waverley. She hasn't thought about Rose in quite some time. Until she gets a call from Charlotte letting her know that bones have been found near a lake and they might well be Rose's. Though reluctant, Nora returns to the town she hated to try and find out what really happened to Rose.I enjoyed this one quite a bit. I empathized with Nora quite a bit, the shy kid, but also with Charlotte, the bossy kid fascinated by the paranormal. And while the paranormal plays a large part in the girls' childhood, it's not really that large a part of the story as a whole. It would have been easy (and trendy) for the author to take it another way. And honestly, I didn't figure this one out. I came up with about a dozen different theories, but none touched on Rose's final fate.
  • (4/5)
    This is a "cold case" story. Two girls (women now) reunite when the body of their long-missing babysitter has been found.I liked the flashback chapters, when the preteen girls and their babysitter were engrossed in the spooky possibilities of the Time Life Books. I felt like the author got the feeling of that era and age just right.And I liked the ending -- it wasn't what I expected, and it was satisfying.But at other points along the way, the story kind of dragged for me. I wasn't much interested in the characters, except for the young Nora.
  • (4/5)
    *spoiler warning!*Fair warning, this review may be a bit disjointed... Mainly because that's how I felt throughout most of the book.The back-and-forth between Nora's childhood and present-day really threw me. I'm sure it works as a writing technique, at least for some readers, but for me it just threw me out of the plot every single time, and multiple times I would have to go back and remind myself what had happened the last time in that time-period. I found myself wanting to skip the flashbacks because it made it so hard to return to the Rose's-body-is-found plot of present-day, but I didn't skip them because I didn't want to miss any possible clues.That's another thing that threw me, the multiple really-important-things in the book that really had very little to do with the main plot. Don't get me wrong, I loved learning more about Nora as a character and understanding what she had gone through and why she didn't want to be back in Waverly... But it also took away from the Rose-plot. All of the flashbacks and memories that centered on Nora and her high school problems, her and Toby on prom night, recounting her suicide attempt and the whys and such... It sort of took away from the urgency of "what the heck happened to Rose?"However, I *loved* all of the build-up and secrets and confusion around Rose's disappearance. Did she run away, was she killed, so many questions... And as the book progresses, learning that she had this huge secret with Paul and Aaron, and wondering what it was, and thinking that maybe she *did* run away because of the secret... And the poems, oh my goodness the poems. At first that little side-story seemed kind of irrelevant, but then when you learn that Rose was the one who wrote them, it takes on whole new meaning. Learning what the big secret was, and knowing that it was weighing so hard on Rose that she had penned a confession to Brian and wrote about suicide in her diary, that was kind of the turning point. When things all started to come together. .... And then the letdown. And yes, to me, the ending was a letdown. All of this mystery, these huge secrets, all of this *motive* of why people would want to keep Rose quiet... And the big huge Rose-disappearing mystery ends up being nothing more then a hit-and-run and a man who panicked and hid the body. It makes it a little more interesting, more understandable given the circumstances, that it was deliberate on Rose's part... She was standing in the road deliberately, she wanted to get hit. Which is why it made such little sense that Toby's dad would hide the body; Anyone who knew Rose's secret, or who read her diary, would've seen that she was at fault... This review is really long, oops. I loved this book, I really did. It took me awhile to get into it, largely because of the constant time-shifts, but I loved reading it. I loved the mystery and I loved learning more about Rose. But I felt disappointed by the ending, and then it seemed like things were really rushed at the end, almost like the author wanted to finish things quickly and didn't give enough explanation or closure to the whole thing.
  • (4/5)
    Who said you can't go home again? A small town mystery raises questions when a missing teen's body is found after years of searching. The book flips between then 11 year old Nora and Charlotte and events that led up to Rose's (their babysitter) disappearance and modern day when an adult Nora comes back to visit. The girls try mystical experiments to discover what happened to Rose but in the end it is a series of poems and a letter that leads the women to solve what really took place. Emily Arsenault took me back to being eleven years old and that journey into self discovery and teen angst.
  • (5/5)
    Book Review by Linda S. BrownIN SEARCH OF THE ROSE NOTES by Emily ArsenaultWilliam MorrowJuly 2011This is not really a coming-of-age novel, although the two young characters, Nora and Charlotte, do a lot of growing up when their teenage babysitter, Rose, disappears.It’s not a ghost story – not really – but it is haunting, as Nora and Charlotte first try to discover what happened to Rose when they were kids; and then again when Nora returns home years later and they, again, try to solve the puzzle of where Rose disappeared to. Rose’s presence is felt everywhere, particularly by the two young girls who admired her, and most especially by Nora.And this isn’t a typical mystery novel. Initially, no one is sure a crime has really been committed when Rose goes missing.But it is a darned good read, absorbing and disturbing, with complicated characters left half-shaded, like an unfinished charcoal drawing that draws you in…In a small town that could be anywhere in the early 1990s, two eleven year old girls are best friends who idolize their sophisticated teenage baby sitter. She is popular at school, has a boyfriend, walks with attitude and talks knowingly of grown-up things. But Rose is also kind to the girls, and even indulges in their fascination with the Time-Life series of books that deals with mysteries of nature and the supernatural. Charlotte, the owner of the books, is the more intellectual of the two girls; she lives with her parents and older brother, and likes to feel superior to Nora. Nora is the more sensitive, reserved of the two; she’s never known her father, and lives with her mother in a shabby apartment up the road from Charlotte’s house. Nora’s never quite felt like she fits in – anywhere. And she’s not even sure she always likes Charlotte, who can be bossy and mean. When the parents are at work, Rose comes to babysit, after school and evenings. Rose tends to serve as a buffer for the two girls, occasionally letting Nora know she, too, thinks Charlotte is a bit obnoxious – but friends are friends.One day, Rose is walking Nora home from Charlotte’s house. Nora stays out in her yard because she hates going into the apartment, and she watches Rose walk up the hill and out of sight. For years, she is known as “the last person to see Rose.” And it is a heavy burden for her. She feels she should know what happened to Rose – but she doesn’t. And despite all the tricks and tips they try to employ from the Time-Life books – using runes and spells and out-of-body attempts – Nora and Charlotte can’t solve the mystery of Rose’s disappearance. It takes a long time for Nora to believe that Rose is dead. Rose was strong and confident – not frightened of life, like Nora. “I remember Rose reminding me that my not watching a documentary about aliens wouldn’t make aliens any less real. Dark was the same way – it would be there whether I chose to face it or not.”Told in alternating flashback and present day, IN SEARCH OF THE ROSE NOTES, explores the painful, confusing territory of pre-teen girls trying to understand life, boys, themselves, each other and to get ready for the excitement and chaos of adolescence. The story takes us through a few years’ of the girls’ lives. When Nora comes back to town as an adult to visit Charlotte, we get glimpses of them as grownups, but they don’t seem quite in focus. Perhaps more in focus is the now-grown Toby, the town’s star auto-mechanic who, as a boy, was a misfit with a wall-eye and lived in a strange old house with his dad, grandmother and brother.
  • (4/5)
    Relationships between girls as they grow up are complicated. Often the girls who were your friends in elementary school become more like enemies as you reach middle school and high school. There is often a line that is crossed where one friend becomes suddenly popular and the other just isn't. Typically, the friend who becomes popular runs fast and furious from the one who isn't leaving hurt feelings and unresolved issues on both sides. Girls can be very cruel to each other - in ways that I think are different than the ways boys are cruel. Boys tend to be direct. Girls tend to be indirect and to shun as a way of establishing who has the power. In Search of the Rose Notes is a mystery, but also an exploration of this life experience.I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In particular I like the ways that it was about the mystery, but that in even more ways it was about the dynamics between girls and the secrets from the past that just about everyone has. We don't necessarily find them out (unless we choose to), but they're there. The exploration of what happens when you go back home, the different perspectives you gain on experiences from the chance to hear the other side (or sides) and to compare experiences from an adult perspective are very much at the heart of this novel. Yes, the mystery matters, but for me the engagement came from the journeys of self-discover that are expertly played out in this novel. Absolutely worth reading.
  • (4/5)
    I won this book from Goodreads.This was a pretty good book. Two old friends reunite after thier childhood babysitter, who disappeared when they were young, was found dead in their old hometown. The story switches back and forth between the friends as children and as adults, but is very easy to follow. It took me almost to the end of the story to figure out what actually happened to Rose all those years ago.
  • (4/5)
    This book does revolve around a mystery -- the disappearance of Charlotte's 16-year-old babysitter Rose -- but is also a story about growing up and friendship and how tragedy can affect both of those things. Nora is Charlotte's best friend. They are both11. Rose is a pretty, popular high-schooler who is technically baby-sitting Charlotte but Nora is there every day after school also because she has a single mom who works as a nurse. The girls are fascinated by the Time-Life books that Charlotte's brother ordered and then discarded and read those books with Rose and then use them after her disappearance to try to solve the mystery. As adults, Nora and Charlotte meet up again and look back on Rose and themselves with a more mature perspective. Well-written book with excellent character development, a good plot, and a surprise ending.
  • (4/5)
    First Line: When I was a kid, I used to stop cold whenever one of those commercials came on.Eleven-year-old best friends Nora and Charlotte used to go to Charlotte's house after school and spend the afternoon with their babysitter, teenager Rose Banks. When Rose disappeared without a trace, the girls knew they had to do something, so using old Time-Life books as their guide, they conducted their own investigation-- which led nowhere.Now Nora is in her late twenties, married and teaching in Virginia. When she gets a phone call from Charlotte telling her that Rose's remains have been found, Nora doesn't really want to return to Connecticut where she and Charlotte became estranged and her teenage years were so troubled. But Charlotte can be a force to be reckoned with when she wants to be. Charlotte wants to join forces once again to find out what happened to Rose, and Nora reluctantly agrees to return. Nora was the last known person to see Rose alive, and she just doesn't feel ready to revisit her adolescence or the events surrounding Rose's disappearance. She's not back very long before long-buried secrets begin to emerge.Almost from the beginning, I began to identify with Nora. Nora is a quiet observer, and it was obvious to me that she had suffered from depression. Charlotte is more in-your-face-- with an innate desire to be the winner, to be special. Charlotte is always probing for the facts, even though she doesn't really want to know what they're telling her. She likes to put her own spin on things.Being no stranger to Time-Life books myself, the two young girls using them as a basis to conduct their investigation was amusing. They did indeed pick up clues along the way, but they were too young to interpret them. (And even though Rose isn't a part of the action very long, she's so well-drawn that you want to know what happened to her.) As adults, Charlotte is still digging for facts, but it's the more intuitive, more emotional Nora who very slowly begins to put things together.In Search of the Rose Notes builds tension and suspense gradually and held my interest throughout. Nora and Charlotte were fully fleshed characters that I strongly reacted to-- Charlotte irked me to no end most of the time, and quiet Nora was really the winner, the special one. She found out what really happened to Rose all those years ago, and she found the strength to kick the toxic bits of her life to the curb and find happiness. As a mystery and as a character study, this book is a winner.
  • (2/5)
    The cover of the book has a comment by Meg Cabot: 'A definite stay-up-all-nighter. I couldn't rest until I found out what had happened to Rose' No agreement here. When I was halfway through the book I slept well even though I didn't know what happened to Rose, didn't feel compelled to get to that part of the story. In other words, the mystery side of this novel was so-so. The part I liked was the way the author wrote about the 11 year old girls and the adults they became. The things one sees, thinks or focuses on changes when we age, as does the understanding on what one hears or sees. I'd read another Arsenault but can't recommend this one very highly.
  • (5/5)
    In Search of the Rose Notes is a bit of a misleading title, in that said notes are uncovered more or less by accident, by two girls who aren't looking for notes specifically but rather anything that will tell them what happened to their babysitter, Rose. Arsenault's book follows two pre-teen girls and their adult selves as they deal with the mystery of Rose's disappearance, and again sixteen years later after her body is finally recovered. Arsenault juggles several plot threads in order to keep the reader guessing as to what might have happened to Rose, and does it very well. Although some of the mystery comes from the fact that at the time of Rose's disappearance the girls are too young to understand everything they hear or see, there's a real mystery there, not just a manufactured one. Arsenault does a good job of navigating that adolescent stage where children think they know more than they do without either mocking her characters or making them look ridiculous. They just look like ordinary kids. Similarly, she does a great job of capturing the way in which things at that age seem to big or complicated or inchoate to talk about, without ever having to tell the reader that's what she's doing. It's a hard age to write well, but it's really working here.The book is, of course, not without its flaws. The girls' voices could be more distinct, and the babysitter's writings contain phrasings that don't seem organic to a sixteen-year-old girl. The main character finds someone on Facebook several months before it was available for random members of the public to join. And I think that the impact of the revelation of what actually happened is blunted by the fact that the narrative doesn't linger with the characters at all to see how they process it. Still, the story is well-constructed and for the most part well-executed, pulling the reader in instantly and keeping his or her attention as the narrative shifts between 1990 and 2006. In a novel that relies so much on memory and flashback, it would be easy for the seams to show now and again, but Arsenault manages to make it look entirely effortless. This was a joy to read and I'm looking forward to checking out her first book as well.
  • (4/5)
    Won this thru early reviewers. The beginning of this book moves very slowly as the reader is introduced to two 11 yr. olg girls and their sixteen yr. old babysitter. The girls interests, conversations, experiments with ESP and other things. When the babysitter goes missing and one of the girls is the last to see her, the two girls use what means are at their disposal to investigate. The disappearance is in the background of all that affects them for years and when her body is found they come together again to reexamine things they had thought in the past. Wonderfully written, if a little slow paced, this is a story of secrets and how things in the past never leave us, a story of relationships and a mystery. Loved her first book and enjoyed this her second.
  • (3/5)
    This is an evenly-paced mystery with good plot and character development. It moves easily from Nora and Charlotte's childhood to their adult relationship, all centered around the enigma of their babysitter's disappearance.
  • (5/5)
    This book was so good I hated to see it end. On one hand, it is a deftly paced mystery whose secrets are revealed each in its due time. For that aspect alone, it is worth reading. What makes it really outstanding, though, is the subtlety of the characters involved and the skillful painting of both an era and a town. I also loved Broken Teaglass and it had some of the same strengths. I can't wait for her next book!
  • (4/5)
    Nora and Charlotte were normal eleven-year old girls. Although one was extroverted while the other was introverted, both were obsessed with Time Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown series and pored over the volumes every day after school. Sixteen year-old babysitter Rose was too old for such nonsense but got caught up in recording her dreams and the possibility of alien encounters. She added her own notes to the already overstuffed pages of the Mystery’s books. When Rose disappeared one day Charlotte tried to use her paranormal prowess to find out what happened to her. Sensitive Nora, “the last person to see her alive“, became overwhelmed emotionally and pulled away from friends and family. She began a downward spiral that lasted into high school when a desperate act finally drew her out of the abyss. Years later when Rose’s body was found, Nora was compelled to make the difficult journey home to make sense of the event and find some closure. Staying with Charlotte who taught at their old high school and slept in her same bedroom forced Nora to face some old demons. The old Time Life books were still there. Did they give any clues previously overlooked? Or did events deemed unimportant at the time matter more? Arsenault is a fine storyteller. I liked the way she used the mental development of eleven-year old girls, right at the cusp of belief in magic and understanding reason as an adult. It gave the story an interesting twist to view Rose’s disappearance from that perspective. Young Nora deduced that something was wrong with Rose beforehand, but did not have the maturity to discern what it might be. The false guilt started her slide into depression. Charlotte on the other hand felt she needed to “do” something and her paranormal stuff was all she knew. Her experiments were amusing but done in earnest. Both children were dealing with fear and tragedy in different ways. So different in fact, that even as adults they had trouble communicating with each other. I liked this story. It breezed along and was so interesting that the ending was not the main event. It’s fun and all too rare to just enjoy a thrilling story along the way.
  • (5/5)
    Nora and Charlotte were eleven year old best friends when their sixteen year-old babysitter, Rose disappears. They girls have been fascinated with Time Life paranormal books passed down from Charlotte's older brother. Rose used look through the books with the girls and after she disappears, Charlotte decides they should use these psychic methods to find her. Nora eventually gets frustrated and thinks Charlotte is just not able to accept that Rose is dead and they drift apart.Seventeen years later, Nora is married and working as an artist and living far from Waverly, where she grew up. Charlotte calls her out of the blue to tell her that the bones of Rose have been found and invites Nora to come for a visit. Charlotte still lives in Waverly, an English teacher at the high school. Nora starts to remember things, pushed by Charlotte, who is convinced Nora knows something as she was the last to see Rose alive. Nora thinks Charlotte is hiding things and begins to do some of her own investigating.The story alternates between now and when the girls were eleven, giving clues but also focusing on young Nora's inner turmoil as she sees and hears grown-up things that she doesn't understand.This is not a fast-moving mystery and it isn't meant to be. It focuses on characters and how things change and how things are not always what they seem. It is almost a coming of age novel though Nora is an adult when she starts to really understand herself. I really liked Nora but found Charlotte to be irritating. Adult Nora is regretting her visit to Charlotte but only stays because she starts to find information and wants to get to the truth. I really enjoyed this book. I think Arsenault is a great writer, understated but captivating. I read her first novel, The Broken Teaglass, which I almost didn't finish and then ended up adoring. I definitely recommend this novel.my rating 4.5/5
  • (4/5)
    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.