Sycamore A novel

Bryn Chancellor

Book - 2017

"In the tradition of EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, and with echoes of OLIVE KITTERIDGE, comes a stunning debut from Bryn Chancellor, an award-winning writer hailed as "amazing, sensitive, and thoughtful" by Kevin Wilson"--

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Subjects
Genres
Mystery fiction
Bildungsromans
Published
New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2017]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
321 pages ; 24 cm
ISBN
9780062661098
0062661094
Main Author
Bryn Chancellor (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

While Sycamore, Arizona, newcomer Laura Drennan is walking one day, getting to know the small college town and blowing off steam from her recent divorce, she discovers a human bone poking from the wall of a dry wash, the site of a former lake. Immediately, the wide cast of characters Chancellor voices all land on the same explanation: Jess Winters, the teenager who disappeared 20 years ago in 1991, though they take different routes to get there. Jess' mom, Maud, still delivers mail in Sycamore (or Syc-to-my-stomach, as Jess called it) and still thinks Jess wouldn't have run away, while many others who knew her have moved on, or not, while harboring varying degrees of guilt. Interspersed in Chancellor's meaty, suspenseful debut is Jess' story of the troubling year (itself preceded by another difficult year) leading up to her disappearance. The author handles this back-and-forth movement well, creating subtle connections among the fleshed-out Sycamore residents that readers will enjoy recognizing while waiting with them to discover the truth about the long-concealed skeleton. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

When a new resident of Sycamore, AZ, discovers what look to be human remains in a bone-dry ravine, townsfolk assume they belong to a troubled teenager named Jess Winters who disappeared 18 years ago. Chancellor won the 2014 Prairie Schooner Book Prize for her story collection When Are You Coming Home? With a 75,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2016 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Chancellor's absorbing first novel begins quietly, quickly gains momentum, and ends explosively. Sixteen-year-old Jess Winters and her mother, Maud, arrive in the small desert town of Sycamore, AZ, in early 1991. Jess is lonely, with few school friends. She writes all her thoughts in a journal during her frequent walks into the desert night. Jess and Maud are close, but Jess is also fiercely independent. When she secretly agrees to a rendezvous with her friend Dani's father, Adam, the fallout during a Thanksgiving dinner among a gathering of friends ripples through the entire town. Jess swears that nothing happened, but she needs to get out into the desert and think. One dark rainy night, a few days before Christmas, she vanishes. The scandalous rumor and Jess's sudden disappearance ruin lives, and everyone resorts to finger pointing. Emotions simmer for the next 18 years, until a jogger discovers human remains in a wash near a trail. Shifting deftly between 1991 and 2009, Chancellor spins multiple threads of Jess's story as it affects everyone, especially Maud. VERDICT This gripping debut is a must for readers of literary fiction with an over-the-top final twist. [See Prepub Alert, 11/14/16.]—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this riveting first novel, 17-year-old Jess Winters, a recent transplant to Sycamore, Ariz., disappears one night in 1991, leaving behind a jagged hole in the community. Eighteen years later, Laura Drennan, a new professor at Sycamore College, goes hiking and accidentally discovers human bones in a dry streambed near the campus. Word quickly spreads, and the entire town wonders if Jess's remains have been discovered. As speculation runs high, we meet the former friends, classmates, neighbors, and teachers who continue to be haunted by Jess's absence. They include her still-grieving mother, Maud Winters; Angie Juarez, a high school friend who had an unrequited crush on Jess; Paul Overton, a classmate who can't forget his behavior at her last Thanksgiving dinner; Dani Newell, the best friend who felt betrayed by her; and Stevie Prentiss, an outcast with a secret. There are also flashbacks, which ultimately reveal what happened to Jess on that fatal night. This is a movingly written, multivoiced novel examining how one tragic circumstance can sow doubt about fundamental things; as one character succinctly asks, "Do we really know anyone?" The author ends her novel with a transporting vision of community, connection, and forgiveness. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (May) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

When a newcomer discovers human bones in a dry wash in Sycamore, AZ, members of the small college town suspect that they belong to Jess, a 17-year-old who vanished 18 years earlier. Debut novelist Chancellor expertly moves between this present-day discovery and the story of Jess's brief life in Sycamore. As a new arrival at 15, Jess had a hard time making friends. Through flashbacks, readers learn about her, her mother, her close friends, and her lover. Since it's clear up front that Jess vanished, her interactions are all the more meaningful. This moving story of teen problems and adult longing crackles with tension. Believable characters and a twist ending add appeal. VERDICT For fans of mystery and suspense.—Karlan Sick, formerly at New York Public Library Copyright 2018 School Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

When human remains are linked to the unsolved disappearance of a teen 18 years earlier, the residents of the victim's hometown rekindle stories, rumors and recollections while examining the complicated history that led to the tragedy. 75,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"In the tradition of EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, and with echoes of OLIVE KITTERIDGE, comes a stunning debut from Bryn Chancellor, an award-winning writer hailed as "amazing, sensitive, and thoughtful" by Kevin Wilson"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

When human remains are linked to the unsolved disappearance of a teenage girl eighteen years earlier, the residents of the victim's hometown rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections while examining the complicated history that led to the tragedy.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

"Masterful. . . . What a joy to find a book that is both propulsive and perfectly composed.'' Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest"Riveting. . . .This is a movingly written, multivoiced novel examining how one tragic circumstance can sow doubt about fundamental things. . . . a transporting vision of community, connection, and forgiveness."'Publishers Weekly (Starred review, Pick of the Week)An award-winning writer makes her debut with this mesmerizing page-turner in the spirit of Everything I Never Told You and Olive Kitteridge.Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. As news of the discovery makes its way around town, Sycamore's longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, the teenage girl who disappeared suddenly some eighteen years earlier, an unsolved mystery that has soaked into the porous rock of the town and haunted it ever since. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess's troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility, and a way forward for their lives.Skillfully interweaving multiple points of view, Bryn Chancellor knowingly maps the bloodlines of a community and the indelible characters at its heart'most notably Jess Winters, a thoughtful, promising adolescent poised on the threshold of adulthood. Evocative and atmospheric, Sycamore is a coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a moving exploration of the elemental forces that drive human nature'desire, loneliness, grief, love, forgiveness, and hope'as witnessed through the inhabitants of one small Arizona town. 

Review by Publisher Summary 5

"Masterful. . . . What a joy to find a book that is both propulsive and perfectly composed.'' Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest"Riveting. . . .This is a movingly written, multivoiced novel examining how one tragic circumstance can sow doubt about fundamental things. . . . a transporting vision of community, connection, and forgiveness."'Publishers Weekly (Starred review, Pick of the Week)An award-winning writer makes her debut with this mesmerizing page-turner in the spirit of Everything I Never Told You and Olive Kitteridge.Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. As news of the discovery makes its way around town, Sycamore's longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, the teenage girl who disappeared suddenly some eighteen years earlier, an unsolved mystery that has soaked into the porous rock of the town and haunted it ever since. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess's troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility, and a way forward for their lives.Skillfully interweaving multiple points of view, Bryn Chancellor knowingly maps the bloodlines of a community and the indelible characters at its heart'most notably Jess Winters, a thoughtful, promising adolescent poised on the threshold of adulthood. Evocative and atmospheric, Sycamore is a coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a moving exploration of the elemental forces that drive human nature'desire, loneliness, grief, love, forgiveness, and hope'as witnessed through the inhabitants of one small Arizona town.