Janice Erlbaum | Have You Found Her (Villard)

book_erlbaum.jpgErlbaum soon realizes her return to the shelter wasn’t so much about giving back, but about seeking to find herself.







I’d already read a review of this book when it showed up in the PLAYBACK;stl P.O. box. As I do with most books that appear unrequested, I opened it and began to read. And found it captivated me, utterly.

The story is this: in her troubled teens, Erlbaum spent some time in a shelter for homeless and troubled teenaged girls. In her 30s, she decides to give back to the place that was so essential to her, and decides to volunteer in a shelter. We’re with Erlbaum from her decision to her first day, to the day her boyfriend moves in and they get married, to her meeting a special young girl named Sam to almost adopting said young girl who, we soon learn, is more troubled that surfaces initially suggest.

As she’s volunteering, Erlbaum admits problems of her own. She smokes too much pot, for instance. Her relationship with her mother is frayed and nearly nonexistent, and the adult understanding she’s forged with her father is far from perfect. She plays favorites at the shelter—a definite no-no. She becomes overly attached to one of the girls, Sam, so much so that she helps her out financially, emotionally, and physically, even going so far as to get power of attorney over the girl and offer to legally adopt her.

Erlbaum soon realizes her return to the shelter wasn’t so much about giving back, but about seeking to find herself: someone young and brash who reminded her of her own young self. She finds this in Sam, but also finds someone who needs her to the point of obsession. Erlbaum’s life—and the life of her husband-to-be—is disrupted, flipped upside down and nearly owned by this girl as she struggles to help Sam survive one catastrophe and health crisis after another.

Critics have bashed Erlbaum for including too much of her own life in the book, and not enough of the subject of the memoir, Sam, a troubled, homeless girl Erlbaum encounters while volunteering at the shelter. However, it states very clearly on the cover "a memoir," so why not reveal parts of her life and what was occuring during this time? I personally had no trouble with it, and felt it better enabled me to get to know the author and to feel more in her shoes as events were unfolding.

Have You Found Her is a captivating and fascinating read, one I wholly recommend and thoroughly enjoyed. | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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