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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Flotsam by Patricia Boomsma is a murder/mystery, crime story that takes place in the Pacific Northwest and sheds a spotlight on the mysterious yet regular disappearances of women on both sides of the Canadian/American border, especially indigenous women. Kelly Flynn is a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in a rural town in Washington State. When police find a foot inside a shoe washed up on the local beach, Kelly is called to the crime scene. Because the beach borders the Native American Nininpak Nation reservation, there is some question of jurisdiction. Whilst at the scene she meets one of the women who discovered the shoe, Therese, a Native American woman who is fearful the foot might belong to her daughter Diyanni, who has been missing for several weeks. She asks Kelly for help in finding Diyanni because the police, the sheriff, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs all seem indifferent to her daughter’s disappearance. As the mother of an adopted, rebellious fourteen-year-old girl, Kelly understands and sympathizes with Therese’s predicament and reluctantly agrees to help. What she discovers is a tangle of disinterest, conflicting jurisdictions, and a bias against missing adults who may have just chosen to disappear. What Kelly also discovers is a large catalog of missing women in the state, especially Native American women.
Flotsam is an eye-opening story that seeks to educate as well as entertain. Author Patricia Boomsma has created a real-to-life narrative that appears to play itself out frequently both in Canada and America, where women disappear regularly and there is not the same emphasis placed on finding them or whether foul play was involved in their disappearance. I particularly appreciated that the author focused on the plight of Native American women and the lack of urgency displayed by the authorities in attempting to discover what may have befallen them. This was perfectly illustrated by the amount of media exposure, police commitment, and involvement of Federal Agencies like the FBI if the missing woman was from a white, middle-class background and, importantly, had a powerful father who was able to push people to achieve results. I also enjoyed the relationship between Kelly and her teenage daughter Ruth. Their strained relationship and Kelly’s difficulty in juggling her tough work life with a daughter determined to rebel against all and any authority, as a single parent, will be relatable to other parents in this position. The separate story arc of Henry’s upbringing and the abuse he suffered at his father’s hand, plus his difficulties with drug addiction, added real depth to the overall scope of the novel. This was an excellent read that I finished in one satisfying session. I can highly recommend this book.