Miss Metropolitan, the moniker for the aged advice columnist for a local throwaway newspaper in Queens, New York, watches her neighbor being loaded into an ambulance one spring day in 2007. She prays that his “reclusive soul” be all right, and she reminds herself that people are innocent until proven guilty.
The neighbor is not innocent. Two girls and a toddler, barely recognizable as humans, have just been taken from the same home in ambulances. After 10 years of brutal captivity, they found their way out through a broken door.
The house soon became known as the “House of Horrors” to sightseers. The novel follows the story of the girls to 2039, more than three decades after their escape.
“Dear Miss Metropolitan,” by Carolyn Ferrell, is a sorrowful yet powerful novel of three teens abducted by a sadist in 1997. He manages to keep the girls prisoner in the home surrounded by a neighborhood that residents consider to be “one big family.” No one questions the comings and goings of the strange man who is written off as an “ascetic” or a “loner” by the neighbors. Even nosy Miss Metropolitan, who lives across the street, isn’t suspicious as she creeps around the house trying to helpfully repair torn cellophane on the basement windows.
The lives of Gwin, Fern and Jesenia before their abductions are interwoven in the harrowing drama that contains good among the evil. After their abductions, Gwin and Fern form a lifelong bond built upon their experiences in captivity. Jesenia, the third victim, is slightly older and is a storyteller. The younger girls worship her. It is her toddler, born in captivity, who is discovered with Fern and Gwin.
It crosses the neighbors’ minds briefly that they should have noticed the deterioration of the house and the strangeness of the reclusive man next door. They finally decide that they aren’t to blame. Some are quick to point out that the victims must have been bad to begin with to get caught up with the man. Some mention that they looked like teen hookers as they were carried out of the house. It certainly wasn’t the fault of the neighbors.
In spite of the chilling and heartbreaking scenes, the novel is a testament to the miraculous ability of humans to find comfort among each other. Hope is maintained through the memories the girls share.
I read this book twice. Once because I was immersed in the story. The second time was to discover just how beautiful and brilliant the main characters are in their response to life before, during and after their exceptionally dark lives.