Woman's Guide to Search and Rescue by MAry Carroll Moore book review
book review

Book Review: A Woman’s Guide to Search and Rescue

A WOMAN'S GUIDE TO SEARCH AND RESCUE by Mary Carroll Moore is a powerful story of redemption and belonging. Check out what Erin Britton has to say in her book review of this indie women's fiction novel.

A Woman’s Guide to Search & Rescue

by Mary Carroll Moore

Genre: Literary & General Fiction / Women’s Fiction

ISBN: 9798987531709

Print Length: 356 pages

Reviewed by Erin Britton

A powerful story of redemption and belonging

Set against the intensely evoked backdrop of the Adirondacks, where the awe-inspiring beauty of the mountain range belies the inherent danger of the wild environment, Mary Carroll Moore’s A Woman’s Guide to Search & Rescue explores the fractured relationships among three women who are all unknowingly searching for the safety of family. In so doing, it presents a surprising story that deftly balances the tension and danger of a crime thriller with the emotion and compassion of a family saga.

The peril facing Red Nelson is clear from the outset. Her story begins in the midst of a plane crash in Panther Gorge, one of the most remote regions of the Adirondacks. Fleeing for her life following a brutal attack on her former husband backstage at her latest gig, Red has followed her mother’s advice, “borrowed” a light aircraft, and attempted to fly to safety. 

Unfortunately, the crosswinds in the unfamiliar environment get the better of her, leading to “the concussion of the impact, a small machine meeting rocky ground at high speed, vibrating from the soles of her boots to the palms of her hands.”

Kate Fisher is facing a very different kind of danger. Unexplained blackouts have caused her to give up her job as a Search & Rescue pilot, although she still works with the team in a ground-based role. Moreover, her husband is growing distant and she suspects the worst: “Anger had tasted sour and satisfying last night, full of unarticulated, unmet needs.” Exacerbating their present difficulties is the fact that both their children seem to be having trouble in their pursuit of independence, trouble that they’re unwilling to share with their parents.

Despite the many differences that separate them, Red and Kate are connected by blood. Kate’s dad escaped his loveless marriage by having an affair, which led to Red’s birth and, subsequently, much happier upbringing. While Kate seemingly wants nothing to do with her half-sister, Red promised her dying mother that she would seek a reproachment with Kate, and the fact that doing so will give her somewhere remote to hide from the mysterious would-be killer who is likely pursuing her is merely an added bonus.

Although she chickens out of throwing herself on her half-sister’s mercy, Red reluctantly agrees to let Kate’s daughter, Molly, help her shelter in a secluded cabin on the family’s property. As Red, Kate, and Molly all come to learn more about themselves and each other, they rediscover the importance of family, both biological and chosen, which gives them strength as the threat that has been circling Red closes in on them. Perhaps Red’s initial interpretation of her situation—“Nobody could rescue her, that was clear”—was incorrect after all?

A Woman’s Guide to Search & Rescue is in part an introspective novel that explores the inner thoughts and feelings of three initially disparate-seeming women. Red, Kate, and Molly all have very different personalities and are at different stages of their lives, but they are all unknowingly searching for the same things: acceptance, belonging, and security. Mary Carroll Moore provides great insight into their thought processes and experiences, really bringing their characters to life and making their motivations clear.

All three women grow significantly as the story progresses, becoming far more rounded and secure individuals, as do many of those whom they encounter. Aside from the difficulties associated with family, the problematic aspects of romantic love loom large for all of them. Not all of the romances are equally convincing, and several of the love interests prove a tad irritating, but overall the love story aspect both enhances and contrasts with emotions of the family saga aspect.

Unusually, A Woman’s Guide to Search & Rescue is also in part a thriller, meaning that the domestic aspects of the story are counterbalanced by a very real sense of deadly danger. It’s immediately clear that there are secrets in Red’s past, dangerous secrets that have resurfaced to take a toll on the present, causing her to flee from her life at what should have been a high point in her musical career. However, Moore takes time drawing the truth out, allowing the tension to build slowly alongside more homely revelations about the nature of family.

The impacts of both parts of the story are intensified by Moore’s skill at building atmosphere and establishing a sense of place. The descriptions of the Adirondacks and the rural surrounds of AuSable Forks are particularly effective, although the scenes in urban settings are also very clearly evoked. The emphasis Moore places on the power and importance of music further adds to the reflective atmosphere. A Woman’s Guide to Search & Rescue reveals the myriad unexpected ways lives can intersect and unite to build something far bigger than any individual.

Thank you for reading Erin Britton’s book review of A Woman’s Guide to Search & Rescue by Mary Carroll Moore! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.

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