Last night I finished Elizabeth Flock’s novel “Me & Emma.”
This is the second Elizabeth Flock book that I have read and I’m sensing a deep psychological theme to her writing. Delving into corners of the mind intrigues me. And yet I find it upsetting and disturbing at times. Reading this novel was no different. In fact, the entire book ended up being very painful to read.
The “me” is Carrie Parker, she is an eight-year-old girl who does everything with her little sister Emma. Emma is six-years-old but acts much older at times. Both girls are very tough children. Not that they have ever had a choice. Robbers killed their dad when they were very young. After his death their Mom died in a sense, too. She sank into a deep depression which she denied to face. She stayed in her room, didn’t cook or clean and when she did some out all she did was yell and hit her girls.
Their Mom remarried a man named Richard. If ever a demon lived on earth, I’d say he was this character.
**spoiler alert from here on out**
Richard was an abusive, alcoholic. He destroyed everything he touched and never had a nice word to say. When he was being sweet it was just to bait Carrie or Emma into doing something for him. Something evil. Something disgusting. Behind closed doors. I’m sure you are getting what I mean, right?
Carrie and Emma try to runaway at one point, but Richard finds them, drags them back home and chains them outside like dogs. Not only do they have to eat dog food, but the chains are so tight and get to hot it leaves burns around their neck. The abuse gets worse after they move out into the country when Richard gets a new job. But Carrie makes friends with Mr. Wilson, an old man who lives down the street a ways. He teaches her how to shoot a rifle. He says she will be able to protect herself and Emma with a gun if she knows how to use it and respect it.
Carrie and Emma stay away from home as much as they can as the beating grow worse and worse. Carrie’s teachers at school ask about the marks on her arms and face, but she lies and says everything is okay.
One day Carrie comes home and their house is a mess. It looks as if everything is broken and torn apart. She calls for Emma and her Mom. Emma doesn’t come, but she sees her Mom lying on the kitchen floor in a puddle of blood. Her Mom whispers to her and tells her to get out of the house. But before Carrie can run, Richard sees her and she screams for Emma. But Richard tells her that he has killed Emma.
The next thing we read is that Carrie hears a loud pop, she knows it is the sound of a gun. She sees that Richard has been shot and killed. She runs out of the house for help.
During the final chapters, police are questioning Carrie as she wakes up. It is at this point that we find out Emma never existed. Carrie made up Emma as a means of coping with having witnessed her dad being murdered and having been abused for years. Everyone had been playing along throughout the whole book because they didn’t know what else to do and they thought Carrie would some day snap out of it. She didn’t. So when Richard said he killed Emma…well…8-year-old Carrie found a rifle and she shot him.
I wish I could say the book ended in some kind of happy way, but it didn’t. As Carrie and her Mom drive away at the end, Carrie begins to write in a notebook. She writes to Emma and says she is so glad that Emma has learned how to write.