Quinn Collins and Esther Vaughan are friends and roommates that share a Chicago walk-up apartment. After Quinn returns home from a drunken Saturday night out she finds Esther gone. Quinn is troubled but reluctant to call the police. Instead she waits for day after day, hoping Esther returns. She also ransacks the apartment for clues to Esther's whereabouts and calls a mutual friend, Ben, for help.
During her exploration of Esther's things Quinn discovers that her roomate did some odd things before she vanished. Esther legally changed her name; took a lot of cash out of her bank account; got a passport; advertised for a new roommate; arranged a mysterious meeting; obtained the card of a psychologist; wrote some strange letters; etc. Try as she might Quinn can't quite make sense of all this...though she does admit (to herself) that her inability to pay her half of the bills and sloppy habits might make her a bad roommate.
Meanwhile, sixty miles away in a Chicago suburb, 19-year-old Alex Gallo works as a busboy/dishwasher in a diner. One morning Alex's attention is arrested by a new customer - a pretty, petite, exotic-looking young woman he calls 'Pearl' because of a bracelet she wears. The reader soon learns that Pearl matches Esther's description.
The story is narrated by Quinn and Alex in alternating chapters. In Quinn's sections she talks about fun times with Esther, how considerate Esther is, Esther's studies, Esther's reluctance to talk about her family, and more. Quinn also details her increasing worries about Esther and reveals her secret crush on Ben, who has a girlfriend.
In Alex's sections he talks about taking care of his alcoholic father, his grief over the desertion of his mom, his exacting boss and crappy job, the agoraphobic woman living near the diner, and his obsession with Pearl - whom he secretly watches and follows. Additonally, Alex talks a lot about the 'haunted house' across the street from his residence, said to harbor the ghost of a deceased five-year-old girl.
Though I was curious about the unfolding events in the story this wasn't a riveting book to me. I became impatient with the snail's pace of the narration and didn't empathize much with the characters, though I did feel a little sorry for Alex - a bright boy who declined a college scholarship to stay home and support his drunken father. I also thought the book's ending was somewhat predictable and not very interesting....but by the time I got there I didn't care much.
For me this is just a so-so book.