Book Review: Sycamore

Published By: Harper
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Page Count: 336
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher
Adult - Mystery

Sycamore is a beautifully written novel by Bryn Chancellor. Jess Winters disappeared in December 1991 of her senior year of high school. The book goes through all the different characters of the town of Sycamore, telling their different stories and what happened to them before and after Jess disappeared. 

 Jess moved to Sycamore, AZ with her mom, who recently divorced Jess's father. She was having a hard time with the move and usually couldn't sleep at night, so Jess would often go out in the middle of the night to walk and clear her head. One evening, she went out and never came back. 

Laura Drennan was also a recently divorced woman who moved to Sycamore in 2009 to teach at the local community college. She went out walking or running to help herself cope with the recent changes in her life. But late one evening, she walked into the wash (which had been a lake, but was drained overnight due to a massive sinkhole back in 1991) and found human remains stuck in the mud. 

 The book goes on with each chapter written from the point of view of many of the people Jess interacted with during her short time in Sycamore - Maud, Jess's mother; Iris, the woman who owns the pecan orchard where Jess worked; Angie, her first friendship that ended so abruptly; Dani, her best friend, Paul, Dani's boyfriend and Iris's son; and many more. It explained so much about who Jess was and the unfortunate circumstances that lead to her going out that fateful December evening to "clear her head". 

 The mystery of who killed Jess or how Jess died wasn't too much of a mystery, in my opinion. I had it figured out fairly quickly. However, that didn't bother me at all because I was so interested in reading all the stories about the different characters in Sycamore. Another reason I appreciated this novel was because I have recently spent a lot of time in this part of Arizona so it was fun to read about all these locations I have visited or driven by recently. 

 I read this book in pretty much one sitting. It thoroughly engrossed me and I would recommend it to those who enjoy mysteries or character studies, or just really amazing books!

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.