Trigger warnings for discussion of physical and sexual abuse, sexual assault.
Dear Miss Metropolitan, by Carolyn Ferrell, is a novel of voices. A rotating cast of characters tell a complicated story about hidden horrors. This book is about our failure to notice crimes and bad things happening all around us…and our ability to deliberately not see those crimes and bad things. All of the characters live in (or spend years in) New York. With all those millions of people living cheek by jowl, one has to be selective about noticing or not noticing. We like to think that, if there was a terrible crime being committed near us, we’d do something, that at least we wouldn’t pretend not to see. These and other questions haunt the cast of Dear Miss Metropolitan.
The terrible crime at the center of Dear Miss Metropolitan is similar to what happened to Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, and Amanda Berry at the hands of Ariel Castro. In 1999, one of our narrators, Fern, is kidnapped by a man she calls the Boss Man. We never really learn his name. Later, another girl named Gwindolyn is kidnapped. Last, Jesenia is kidnapped and joins the other two girls in what the press later calls the Queens House of Horrors. Over a decade, the girls were tortured and raped by the Boss Man. Even when they are rescued, Fern and Gwin carry the House of Horrors with them. No amount of therapy or pharmaceuticals will make their lives right again.
A lot of the book is narrated by Fern, who alternates with an old journalist who later develops senility (I think), Jesenia’s daughter by Boss Man, a group of the journalist’s friends in the neighborhood, and a detective who takes Fern and Gwin back to the scene of the crime in an effort to help them remember more. Back and forth. The 1990s to the 2000s to the 2030s. All of it told in distinct voices that create a chorus shouting at us to think about what we don’t see when we look around ourselves. All of these voices—and the things they say—are challenging. But Dear Miss Metropolitan feels like a book that many of us need to read, so that we can open our eyes to see what’s going on around us, so that we can relieve someone’s misery, solve a crime, and maybe save a life.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.