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Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber

I know what it means to be set loose in the world. Damaged children are all of the same tribe: I can look at any adult and recognize one instantly ... we're everywhere. Lost childhood lingers like tribal scars ... there's always some sign.

from page 59

Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber is a mystery thriller that follows two mysteries that in the end are so closely intertwined that one would not exist without the other; in fact, one mystery spawns the other and only by pursuing leads in both mysteries can either be resolved. The mysteries themselves really take a backseat to the character of the narrator, Lena, a young and expert fingerprint examiner for the crime lab in Syracuse, New York; the meat of the story focuses on the inner workings of Lena's thoughts as she struggles to come to terms with her past.

Lena was a foster child, she was raised by Pia and Henry who never tried to legally adopt her. Before she came to live with her foster parents at the age of three, she only remembers the dense green foliage of the rain forest where she believes she was raised by an ape mother until she was rescued by humans and brought to Syracuse where Pia and Henry took her in. Her foster mother is reluctant to share any details of the hospital or orphanage from which Lena came.

Recently several infants in Syracuse have died unexplained deaths. Ultimately SIDS is ruled as the cause of death, but when Lena begins taking a closer look at the evidence and the cribs brought into the lab, a much more sinister cause emerges. Spurred on by the intuition that these recent SIDS deaths are connected to the dark secrets of her past and her biological parentage, Lena pursues the mystery of her own origin in order to get at the true cause of the infants' deaths when it becomes clear the criminal investigation won't yeild any physical evidence to lead them to the answers.

Abu-Jaber is expert at vividly portraying the awkwardness of Lena's personality and social skills and her self-imposed isolation. This gripping story draws the reader in from the first page as the story of Lena and her past is unspooled.

This book will soon be available at the Matthews Public Library.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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