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Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can’t be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby’s friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.
But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns home two years later, a precarious and deadly balance waits. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
Imaginary Girls is a masterfully distorted vision of family reminiscent of Shirley Jackson, laced with twists that beg for their secrets to be kept.
“…down in what was once Olive, you could still find the townspeople who never left. They looked up into their murky sky, waiting to catch sight of our boat bottoms and our fishing lines, counting our trespassing feet.”
Ruby and Chloe are sisters that live in upstate New York together. Their mother is forever absent and the two have learned to only rely on one another. The town they live in is located near a massive reservoir that is reported to have submerged a town called Olive, and older sister Ruby tells the story of the town as if the people are still down there living their daily lives. One night at a party taking place at the reservoir, Ruby boasts that her sister could swim across the reservoir and if so inclined even go down and get a souvenir from Olive. The only thing she brings back from her swim is a lone rowboat in the middle of the reservoir where the body of a dead girl lies.
After the rowboat incident, Chloe moves to Pennsylvania to live with her dad and step-mother, leaving Ruby behind. A random text every now and then is the only communication Chloe has with her sister, but two years go by and her sister has appeared suddenly in town to coerce her to return, insisting that things are back to normal. Chloe does return and finds that things are in fact back to the way they were, but they aren’t truly. Something eerie and mysterious is at work and Chloe knows that Ruby’s the reason for it all. The strange stories her sister tells about the town of Olive, and of the reservoir, and of the dead girl named London are all connected somehow and Chloe’s curiosity is overpowering. She trusts her sister implicitly despite the strangeness that her hometown now exudes.
Imaginary Girls is a mesmerizing tale that will leave you contemplating the magic that threads itself through this novel. It’s a strangely horrific tale with a subtle delivery causing the eeriness to come upon you slowly. The story of the town of Olive and the people that still live down there. Imagining their eyes following you as you swim in the reservoir. Ruby’s enthralling power and influence she holds over the town and its inhabitants is intriguing until she begins to take it too far.
Suma’s writing will captivate you with its skillful blend of magical realism but the focal point of the story, the unbreakable bond between two sisters, makes a powerful statement.