Author: Bryn Chancellor
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Hardcover, 336 Pages
Publication: May 9, 2017 by Harper
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
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.
Every year there comes one book. One book that is surprising, brilliant, captivating, unputdownable and a must read of the year. And while I’ve read plenty of great novels this year, Sycamore is without a doubt the must read book of 2017. Sycamore is a complex, multifaceted mystery centered around a small town and the disappearance of Jess Winters, a teenager that went missing eighteen years earlier, in the winter of 1991.
With the discovery of bones, Chancellor takes readers on a dark, poignant look at adulthood and the life of adolescence. The book is narrated by an amazing cast of realistic and intriguing characters alternating between the past and present. The past is narrated by none-other then our girl, Jess Winters. We learn of her life upon arriving to Sycamore and all the way up to the day she disappeared. The present is narrated by everyone that knew Jess and who were affected by her one way or another and the newcomer that discovered the mystery set of bones while on a hike; which may or may not be of Jess Winters, the girl that has haunted the town over the years.
I know this is repetitive, me saying this, but I am not a fan of multiple narration. And Sycamore is full of multiple narration. However, I thought it fit this book perfectly. It just worked, and I honestly cannot see it any other way. We got a through and in-depth look at each and everyone’s life, how everyone was before Jess disappeared and after. We got to see first hand, at what one supposedly harmless secret can do; and how it can trigger a chain reaction that those caught in the cross-hair can feel the consequences years down the road. Chancellor’s writing captivated me from the first page and I was on pins and needles as the mystery unfolded till the very end. As the saying goes ‘though all good thing comes to an end’ but I didn’t want the story to be over. I just wanted to soak myself into the story.
The mystery was never much a mystery. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to know how everything played out. The real mystery and best part of the book were the characters that Chancellor so expertly described and brought to life. All the characters had their own distinct voice. I truly felt as if I could see, experience and feel what they felt. The real mystery was the inhabitants of Sycamore. At the start of the book, we see everyone as a relationship to Jess. Dani, Jess’s best friend, Paul, Jess’s boss’s son, Maud, Jess’s mom etc. As the story developed, we saw past everyone’s appearance and labels, to see that everyone had their own secrets, fears, doubts, hopes and dreams…just like Jess had.
The mystery of Sycamore and Jess Winters will pique your interest, but the characters will make you stay. Chancellor’s debut is truly magnificent and the writing is lyrical and poetic. If you can read one book this year, let it be Sycamore. Seriously, pick this book up now, you won’t regret it. Even if you’re not really a fan of mystery or suspense, this book will certainly change that. I absolutely loved Sycamore, it is a literary masterpiece and I know for certain that this book will stay with me for a very long, long time.