New Fiction: Sycamore – Bryn Chancellor

This very assured literary debut marries the uncovering of the decades-old secret behind a teenage girl’s disappearance with the effect that disappearance has on a small Arizona community. Told in multiple voices, what could have been just another “disappearing girl whodunit” instead becomes a character study in grief, secrets and reconciliation. PW calls it “riveting” and I’ve had several early readers rave, one even texting me that it left her in tears.

It’s a LibraryReads Top 10 Pick for May and received two starred advance 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…. There are also flashbacks, which ultimately reveal what happened to Jess on that fatal night. This is a movingly written, multivoiced novel…. The author ends her novel with a transporting vision of community, connection, and forgiveness.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 “A meaty, suspenseful debut.”
Booklist

“Haunting and elegiac, Bryn Chancellor’s Sycamore masterfully traces the fault lines of trauma and loss that resurface in the wake of a tragedy’s second coming. Chancellor’s multivocal narrative brims with intelligence and insight, and her subtle writing poignantly illuminates the ways in which we are sometimes bound, for better and for worse, by a collective sorrow.”
— Claire Vaye Watkins

“This deeply moving story, which could have easily veered towards melodrama and sentimentalism, explores the fateful events that led to Jess’s disappearance and slowly reveals the mistakes, secrets and regrets but also the humanity and good that resides in each of the characters. Heart-wrenching and compassionate in the manner of Kent Haruf’s stories, this is a flawless first novel.
—  Pierre Camy, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

Sycamore (9780062661098) by Bryn Chancellor. $26.99 hardcover. 5/9/17 on sale.

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