Part detective novel, part ghost story, this brilliant debut asks a tantalizing question: What really happens when a girl goes missing?
"A thrilling, many-faceted, gothic novel: Erin Kate Ryan's Quantum Girl Theory belongs in the same company as the work of Shirley Jackson and Carmen Maria Machado."--Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2022--CrimeReads
Mary Garrett has a gift for finding missing girls, a special kind of clairvoyance she calls "the sight." Lured by a poster and the promise of a reward, she arrives at a small town in the Jim Crow South to discover that not one but three girls have vanished--two of whom are Black, and whose disappearances have gone uninvestigated outside their own community. She sets out to find them.
As it turns out, Mary is herself a "missing girl." In another life, she was a Bennington College sophomore named Paula Jean Welden, who disappeared one night in 1946. The case captivated the nation's imagination, triggering front-page headlines, scores of dubious sightings, and a wave of speculation: Who was Paula Jean, really, and why had she disappeared?
As Mary's search for the three missing girls intensifies, so do the glimpses of Paula Jean's other possible lives: She is a circus showgirl hiding from her past, a literary forger on the verge of being caught, a McCarthy-era informant in love with a woman she meets in a Communist cell. With the signals multiplying, the locals beginning to resent her presence, and threats coming from all sides, Mary wonders whether she can trust anyone--most of all herself.
Both a captivating mystery and a powerful thought experiment, Quantum Girl Theory
spins out a new way of seeing those who seem to disappear before our eyes.