My Abandonment, by Peter Rock (2009), is the story of thirteen-year-old Caroline and her father. They live in Forest Park, a huge wilderness area in Portland, Oregon. They live in a homemade cave structure, keep a garden, and use a makeshift septic system. Although they avoid most contact with the outside world, they make weekly visits to the city, where the father uses veteran’s benefit checks to purchase supplies they cannot grow.
When a jogger finds their camp, Caroline and her father are removed from the park and briefly separated. A social worker, Miss Jean Bauer, puts Caroline through a series of tests and finds that she has advanced above her grade level academically. Caroline impresses Miss Bauer with her unique worldview, which is naïve but refreshingly sincere. With the help of other social workers, Miss Bauer eventually finds Caroline and her father a new home on a farm.
At the farm, Caroline’s father grows increasingly paranoid; he is convinced that people are watching everything they do. Eventually the two run away. They spend several weeks homeless in downtown Portland, where they take elaborate measures to avoid being found. From there they travel to the town of Sisters, Oregon, where a tragic accident leaves Caroline on her own.
Alone and suffering from frostbite, Caroline travels to Boise, Idaho, to a house where she lived as a child. In her mind, Caroline relives a day from several years before when her father came and took her away. He explained that she did not really belong to the family she had always known. At that time, he promised to return and retrieve Caroline’s sister, but he never did this. Caroline walks to a nearby school and finds the girl and watches her for a while. Caroline decides that this girl is unremarkable and that she does not belong in an unusual life like the one Caroline wants to continue to lead.
Caroline returns to Sisters and lives alone. She earns her high school diploma and works part-time jobs. She longs for the life she and her father once lived in Forest Park, but she is not sure how to return to it. She watches the young girls in town, looking for one who might want to live a different kind of life.
My Abandonment is based on a true story of a father and daughter who were caught living in Forest Park and who eventually disappeared. It also draws on the story of the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart from Salt Lake City.