Booklist Reviews 2017 April #2
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.
LJ Reviews 2016 December #1
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.
LJ Reviews 2017 April #2
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.
PW Reviews 2017 March #3
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.