Twenty-seven-year-old Catherine Reindeer disappears from a restaurant parking lot shortly after high school athlete Donny Zimmerman went missing. There's no clear connection between the two and, for nearly a year, no sign of them either. No ransom letters, no leads -- they're just gone. The only place these two seem to exist anymore is in the thoughts, memories, and wan hopes of loved ones, acquaintances, and anyone touched by the loss of them.
So Much Love, Rebecca Rosenblum's first novel, is an empathetic bouquet. Instead of dwelling on a linear, harrowing (and, admittedly, generically familiar) abduction/escape/recovery narrative, Rosenblum, previously the author of two collections of sometimes-connected short stories, explores the far-reaching, varied consequences of Catherine and Donny's abductions. Here are the lives and voices of those closest to that blast zone, such as Catherine's mother and husband, but we also we hear from the peripheral likes of her Canadian Poetry professor and one of her coworkers, who each find their own separate lives both interrupted and revealed by the life and fate of thse person who are only circumstantially or tangentially known to them.
Storytelling is the rebar in So Much Love. Whether crappy Netflix rom-coms, a high school assigned The Death of Ivan Illych, or the (fictional) poetry of Julianna Ohlin -- as famous for her work as she is for her death -- stories are as ever-present as house cats in these character's lives, either the centre of attention or casually just there. For Catherine, for instance, Ohlin's poetry and biography makes for a nearly literal reflection to observe her own life in; for her husband and mother, the poetry becomes a tenuous way to connect with a person they've lost access to. For a story about captivity, looking outward with stories serves as an important, sometimes life-saving means of looking inward.
When Catherine and Donny disappear, they, for all intents and purposes, transubstantiate into pure narrative, existing only in news reports and the memories of those who know them. By divvying the storytelling in the manner she does, Rosenblum explores just how subjective "selfhood" is, how so much of what we are is our stories, the ones we tell about ourselves and the ones told about us. The abduction of Catherine and Donny is an abduction of their stories as much as it is of their persons. Just as Ohlin's poetry becomes tragically braided with the circumstances of her death, who Catherine and Donny are is recontextualized by their abductor. They lose control of the stories of thier own lives.
The literal captivity in the plot of So Much Love might prove a bit disappointing to seasoned thriller fans, but in exploring how voices are lost and found in tragic and extreme circumstances, Rosenblum locates new, compelling ground in what would otherwise be well-trodden territory.