Evidence of Life

Evidence of Life

3.7 14
by Barbara Taylor Sissel
     
 

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On the last ordinary day of her life, Abby Bennett feels like the luckiest woman alive. But everyone knows that luck doesn't last forever…

As her husband, Nick, and daughter, Lindsey, embark on a weekend camping trip to the Texas Hill Country, Abby looks forward to having some quiet time to herself. She braids Lindsey's hair, reminds Nick to

Overview

On the last ordinary day of her life, Abby Bennett feels like the luckiest woman alive. But everyone knows that luck doesn't last forever…

As her husband, Nick, and daughter, Lindsey, embark on a weekend camping trip to the Texas Hill Country, Abby looks forward to having some quiet time to herself. She braids Lindsey's hair, reminds Nick to drive safely and kisses them both goodbye. For a brief moment, Abby thinks she has it all—a perfect marriage, a perfect life—until a devastating storm rips through the region, and her family vanishes without a trace.

When Nick and Lindsey are presumed dead, lost in the raging waters, Abby refuses to give up hope. Consumed by grief and clinging to her belief that her family is still alive, she sets out to find them. But as disturbing clues begin to surface, Abby realizes that the truth may be far more sinister than she imagined. Soon she finds herself caught in a current of lies that threaten to unhinge her and challenge everything she once believed about her marriage and family.

With a voice that resonates with stunning clarity, Barbara Taylor Sissel delivers a taut and chilling mystery about a mother's love, a wife's obsession and the invisible fractures that can shatter a family.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"If you love Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve, read Barbara Taylor Sissel."
-Joni Rodgers, bestselling author of The Secret Sisters

"A chilling mystery with a haunting resolution you won't see coming."
-Sophie Littlefield, bestselling author of Garden of Stones

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780778315162
Publisher:
MIRA
Publication date:
03/26/2013
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

On the last ordinary day of her life before her family went off for the weekend, Abby made a real breakfast-French toast with maple syrup and bacon. It was penance, the least she could do, given how utterly delighted she was at the prospect of being left on her own for two whole days to do as she pleased. It would sicken her later, in the aftermath of what happened, that she could so covet the prospect of solitude, but in that last handful of ordinary hours, she was full of herself, her silly plans. She set a small mixing bowl on the counter, found the wire whisk, and when Nick came in the back door, she brandished it, smiling at him.

He frowned. "What are you doing?"

"Cooking breakfast, French toast."

"We don't have time. We're going to hit rush-hour traffic as it is."

"It'll be fine," Abby soothed.

He came to the sink still wearing the wisp of bloodstained tissue he'd stuck below his ear where he'd cut himself shaving and the rumpled cargo shorts he'd pulled out of the hamper as if he didn't have a drawer full of clean ones. As if the unwashed pair were the only ones that suited him.

Abby got out a frying pan, aware of his mood, regretful of it. She wished he hadn't bothered with shaving. She wished she'd done the laundry yesterday. Leaving the breakfast makings, she went to him, circled his waist from behind, laid her cheek against his back. "I'm sorry about your shorts" The words were right there, but they caught in her throat when she felt him go still.

"Don't," he said, and she backed away. She returned to the stove, absorbing herself in the task of separating the strips of bacon and arranging them with care in the bottom of the pan. As if her care made a difference, as if it could keep her family safe when it couldn't. She ought to have known that much at least. She went to the refrigerator and took out the carton of eggs.

Nick washed his hands.

"I wish you'd tell me what's wrong," she said when he shut off the water.

"Why do you always think something's wrong, Abby?"

"I don't."

"You do."

"Fine," she said. She would not stand here squabbling as if they were their children.

He hung the kitchen towel over the oven door handle, gave her one of those side-of-the-mouth kisses.

"I'm sorry," he said. "Nothing's wrong. I just want to get on the road."

Abby's jaw tightened. She knew better.

"Wouldn't cereal be easier?" he asked.

She broke the eggs into the bowl. "I'd like us to sit down to breakfast together for once."

"What about the mess? You do realize we can't stay to help you clean up."

"I don't mind."

He went to the foot of the stairs and shouted, "Lind-sey? What's taking you so long? I could use some help loading the camping gear."

"Down in a minute, Dad," she shouted back. "I had to get ready in Jake's bathroom because the shower in mine is still leaking."

Nick looked at Abby. "I thought you called the plumber."

"I did. He hasn't-"

Nick left. The screen door clattered shut behind him.

"-called back yet," Abby finished.

She whipped the eggs, fuming. She wished she had taken Nick's advice and served cereal. They'd be gone faster. She wished she had said it was only lately that she assumed something was wrong. Because there was something; she could feel it. Nick was distracted, moodier than usual. Too quiet. That is, when he wasn't biting her head off for no reason. And since when did he push her away? Say no to her touch? It wasn't like him.

Abby added powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla to the eggs. She got out a fork and poked at the bacon, aggravated at the sudden stab of her tears, a duller sense of alarm. Whatever it was, she wasn't a mind reader; she couldn't fix it by herself. Why couldn't he see that?

"I can't get my hair to do anything." Lindsey came up beside Abby, her brush and comb in her hand. Abby composed her face. "Want me to French braid it?"

"Would you?"

Lindsey's hair reached the middle of her back, a thick mane that blended shades of honey blond with darker shades of reddish brown, colors very similar to those of Miss Havisham, Lindsey's chestnut mare. Lindsey said she'd rather groom Miss Havisham's mane than her own, and she conned Abby into doing it whenever she could. Abby didn't mind; she loved the feel of it through her fingers, like rough silk. Deftly, she parted off three sections and began weaving them together. "Should I call you tomorrow and let you know if Hardys Walk wins tonight?"

"Samantha will."

"Is Scott pitching?"

"I don't know. Who cares anyway? He barely knows

I'm alive."

"Oh, honey." Abby squeezed Lindsey's shoulder. Scott Kaplan was her first serious crush, the first boy to truly trouble her heart, and Abby was both exasperated and pained by the experience. She wished she could say how little Scott would matter in the long run, but she didn't dare. "Did you bring a rubber band?"

Lindsey handed it over along with a bit of taffeta ribbon, pink with a narrow green stripe. "I don't see why I have to go on this trip when Jake doesn't."

"He has finals," Abby said.

"Oh, sure," Lindsey scoffed. "Like he'd choose cramming for finals over camping in the Hill Country. Finals aren't until next month anyway." Abby kept silent.

Lindsey said, "If you ask me he's not going because he doesn't want Dad on his case about law school again."

"Can you blame him?" Abby asked.

Lindsey didn't answer. She was as tired of Nick and Jake's continual bickering as Abby was. Nick was so much harder on Jake than he was on Lindsey. His preference was obvious, hurtful, but if Abby brought it up, Nick denied treating Lindsey differently. "You don't understand about boys," he would say.

"Oh, I think I understand perfectly. He's exactly like you," Abby would say.

Stubborn, she meant. Each one was determined to have it his own way.

"You know I'm right, Mom," Lindsey said.

"At least you won't have to listen to them argue."

"Maybe I'll go to law school."

Abby made a face. Lindsey never passed up an opportunity to remind her parents that she was the better student, the orderly, more agreeable child. "I thought you were going to play pro basketball overseas, travel the world."

"Is there a reason I can't do both?"

"Nope. You, my darling daughter, can do anything you set your mind to, just like your brother." Abby ran her fingers lightly down the length of Lindsey's braid.

"If only I could stay home like my brother."

"Your daddy has gone to a lot of trouble to plan this trip so he can spend time with you."

"I know. I just wish it wasn't this weekend."

"There are worse sacrifices," Abby answered, blithely.

"I have finals next month, too. And don't say it's not the same."

"Okay, I won't." Abby centered the griddle over the burner. "Will you set the table and call your dad? The French toast'll be done in a minute." She could feel Lindsey considering whether or not to push.

Please, don't. It was a prayer, a wish, yet one more in the sea of mundane moments from that morning that would return to mock her. To ask her: How could you? Because she would remember that Lindsey hadn't pushed; she'd set the table and left the kitchen without another word.

"What about jackets?" Abby followed her husband and daughter through the back door, onto the driveway. Although it was April, it was still chilly, and it would be colder where they were going.

Colder than home.

"It's supposed to rain," she said. "Maybe you guys should take your boots."

"Dad says it's not going to rain, that the weatherman doesn't know his-"

"Lindsey," Abby warned.

"I wasn't going to say ass, Mom. I was going to say bum or buttocks or what about seater rumpus?" Abby rolled her eyes.

"He doesn't know his seater rumpus from a hole in the ground," Lindsey finished. She stowed her purse and iPod in the front seat. "Mom?"

"Yep?"

"I wish you were going."

"You do? How come?"

"Because that delicious French toast you made for us? It's the last good meal I'll eat till we get home." Abby laughed.

"Very funny." Nick hefted his briefcase and laptop into the back of Abby's Jeep Cherokee, shifting it to fit, muttering what sounded to Abby like, "Who needs this?" Or, "Why am I doing this?"

She said, "Why don't you leave that stuff here? You don't have to work every weekend."

"I gave you the keys to the BMW, didn't I?" he asked as if he hadn't heard her, and maybe he hadn't or didn't want to.

"Oh, my gosh!" Lindsey's eyes were round in mock amazement. "Dad's letting you drive his precious BMW?"

"I know," Abby said. "I'm astonished, too."

He straightened. "Hey, funny girl, maybe I'll let you drive Mom's Jeep."

"For real?" She only had her learner's permit, wouldn't turn sixteen until August.

"Do you think that's wise?" Abby was instantly anxious. "She's never driven on the highway."

"She has to learn sometime."

"But they said it might storm."

"Like they know." Nick dropped his arm around her shoulders. "You worry too much."

"Just promise me you won't let her drive if the weather's bad."

"Jesus, Abby, I'm not stupid."

"No, Nick, I didn't mean-"

But he was stepping away, telling Lindsey to get in the car. He wanted to get to the campsite before dark.

She came over to Abby and hugged her. "Never mind, Mommy. You know how stressed he gets before a road trip. If he lets me drive, I promise I'll be careful."

Abby clung to Lindsey for a moment, breathing in her scent, leftover maple syrup and something citrusy, a faded remnant of little girl, the color pink, a lullaby. She said, "I know you will." She walked with Lind-sey to the car.

"We'll be back on Sunday." Lindsey settled into the front seat. "Unless we've starved to death from Daddy's cooking."

"I'll make a big dinner, barbequed chicken and corn on the cob. Chocolate cake for dessert. How's that sound?"

"I just hope I'm not too weak to eat it."

"I think you'll survive," Abby said. She looked at Nick over the hood. "Don't be mad because of what I said about Lindsey driving, okay? I didn't mean anything."

"She has to learn, Abby, and it's best if one of us is with her."

"I'm glad it's you." Abby meant it. Nick's nerves were steadier. She went around to him. "I hope you can relax and have some fun."

"Yeah, me, too."

She wanted his gaze and touched his wrist. "Nick?"

"We should probably talk when I get home."

"About?"

"Things. Us. You know. Isn't that what you're always saying, that I should be more open with you?"

"Yes, but-" What's wrong? She bit her lip to stop herself from asking.

"Thanks for making the French toast." His eyes on hers were somber.

"Sure, of course. I was glad to. You'll be careful, won't you?"

Instead of answering, he cradled her face in his hands and kissed her, and his kiss was so gentle and tender, and so filled with something she couldn't define. Later she would think it was regret she felt coming from him, maybe even remorse. But then she'd wonder if she'd read too much into it, if her sense of that had been created in hindsight.

He touched her temple, brushed the loose wisps of hair from her forehead. "I don't want you to worry. We'll be fine, okay?" His look was complicated, searching.

"Okay," she said, and she might have questioned him then, but he left her and got into the car too quickly. They reached the end of the driveway, Lindsey waved, and they were gone.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
If you love Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve, read Barbara Taylor Sissel."

-Joni Rodgers, bestselling author of The Secret Sisters

"A chilling mystery with a haunting resolution you won't see coming."

-Sophie Littlefield, bestselling author of Garden of Stones

Meet the Author

Barbara Taylor Sissel is the author of five novels, including Evidence of Life and Safe Keeping. With heartfelt emotion and page-turning suspense, her stories focus on ordinary families and what happens when they are abruptly confronted with extraordinary circumstances. In addition to writing, Barbara is an avid gardener and the mother of two sons. She lives and writes in a small garden cottage on a farm located in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.

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Evidence of Life 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was boring i only finished to see what happened to the husband and the daugher what happened in the beginning nothing special abot the story except it draged on and on
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is by far the worst book I have ever read! The plot just drags on FOREVER! Don't waste your time or money on this!
MD53 More than 1 year ago
I liked the premise of this book very much but it moved a little too slow for my taste. The author did a good job of opening up the various secrets and the plot was good, however, the pacing was a little slow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the book.
HWilson More than 1 year ago
Insightful. As always, Barbara Taylor Sissel chooses a story line that makes you stop and think. I love her writing, her books and her perspective. I always walk away wondering exactly what I would do if that, indeed, had been my own family. Just as in life, you'll find characters that are charming, charismatic and down-right frustrating. However, there may not be many of us who find ourselves the family in the center of the crime. Who are we to judge? Worth the read, just like The Volunteer and The Ninth Step!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Drawn out!!! Not good
acorley84 More than 1 year ago
 I just want to start by saying that I absolutely LOVED this book from the very beginning. I enjoyed reading every page that I turned. I could only dream of being as strong as the main character, Abby! I admired her strength and refusal to give up! All of the characters were so different from what you normally read and I really appreciated that.  The author did a great job of writing an interesting twisted mystery. I found myself thinking of what I would do if I were in the situation throughout the whole book. I loved how the book had new twists and turns at every page turn! I certainly didn't expect that particular ending. Barbara Taylor Sissel amazed me with her writing abilities and I won't hesitate to pick up another one of her books real soon! I definitely would recommend this book to anyone!I just want to start by saying that I absolutely LOVED this book from the very beginning. I enjoyed reading every page that I turned. I could only dream of being as strong as the main character, Abby! I admired her strength and refusal to give up! All of the characters were so different from what you normally read and I really appreciated that.  The author did a great job of writing an interesting twisted mystery. I found myself thinking of what I would do if I were in the situation throughout the whole book. I loved how the book had new twists and turns at every page turn! I certainly didn't expect that particular ending. Barbara Taylor Sissel amazed me with her writing abilities and I won't hesitate to pick up another one of her books real soon! I definitely would recommend this book to anyone!
CMash More than 1 year ago
I became a fan, of this author, after reading The Ninth Step and then her subsequent book, The Volunteer.  And with her latest book, Evidence of Live, she did not disappoint.  Abby is looking forward to a quiet weekend alone.  Her husband, Nick, and their daughter, Lindsey, are spending the weekend on a planned camping trip and their son, Jake, is away at college.  But within hours of Nick and Lindsey leaving, Abby's tranquil weekend turns into months of hell. With news of powerful rains and flooding, that have claimed lives, Abby has no word as to the fate of her family.  As months go by, and no definite answers, if Nick and Lindsey were victims, Abby holds on to hope that they will be found.  Even though, those around her fear and accept that father and daughter were among the causalities, Abby starts looking for answers.  If it is closure that Abby is seeking, she soon finds out that her life wasn't as she thought it was. As with her other novels, Ms. Sissel expands on an every day topic, adding suspense, romance, relationship dynamics and thought provoking scenarios culminating to a "never saw coming" finale.  Her characters come to life and can be related to.  Her descriptive settings allow the reader to create vivid imagery.   The suspense, page turning.  Evidence of Life...another 5 star read!!  Highly recommend, not only this book, but Ms. Sissel's previous stories.  Guarantee that you will be placing her on your "authors to read" list!!!
JerseyGirlBookReviews More than 1 year ago
A wife/mother's worse nightmare .... When Abby Bennett's husband Nick and fifteen year old daughter Lindsey go on a weekend camping trip to the Texas Hill Country, a devastating flash flood storm occurs, they are missing and presumed drowned but their bodies are not recovered. Devastated and unable to process the loss of her family, Abby refuses to believe they are dead and is obsessively determined to search for them. But when the investigation uncovers unexpected and disturbing information, what Abby discovers about Nick and Lindsey's disappearance will leave her questioning everything about her marriage, family and friends. Evidence Of Life is an intriguing novel full of mystery, questions and unexpected twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing. Author Barbara Taylor Sissel weaves a compelling and thought provoking tale set in Texas and written in the third person narrative. The reader follows Abby Bennett's quest as she tries to discover the truth about her husband Nick and daughter Lindsey’s disappearance during a massive flash flood. The author provides the reader with an intricate mystery, leaving clues throughout the story while alternating between Abby's quest, her mindset, and flashbacks to earlier times in her life and marriage, which keeps the reader engaged and turning the pages. With a realistic cast of characters who have flaws and imperfections; a richly descriptive storyline and setting full of mystery and suspense that engages the reader's imagination; and a psychological and realistic look into the complicated dynamics of relationships; Evidence Of Life is a heart wrenching and riveting thriller!
PaulineMA More than 1 year ago
Barbara Taylor Sissel does it again. She pulled me in right from the start with this story.  Abby Bennett is faced with the worst fears...the tragic loss of her husband and daughter. As she discovers inconsistencies and unanswered questions, she cannot process grief because she isn't sure of death. Some unexpected events keep this story fresh and give you some surprises. All is not what it seems, sometimes.  The characters are well written. The story takes place in Texas, the descriptions of the terrain makes me want to visit soon!  I'm so happy to have stumbled upon this great author because I've now read all her books. If Evidence of Life is your first exposure to this author, you should definitely check out her other books as well. 
charlottesweb93 More than 1 year ago
Evidence of Life was a unique kind of mystery. You heart aches for Abby because she just can't seem to come to terms with the loss of her husband and daughter, yet as the story goes on, you also start to question what really happened to Nick and Lindsey.  I liked how her friends rallied around her, but it annoyed me a bit, too, when they were really questioning her sanity. Bottom line, Evidence of Life is a bit of a page turner. Easy to read and well written it goes by pretty fast.  If you are looking for a good mystery, pick up Evidence of Life
MisfitGeek More than 1 year ago
This book is wonderfully written. I enjoyed it from start to finish. I felt the story flowed very nicely and the writing was very expressive. The author captured my interest immediately and held it all the way through. I felt that the ending was true to the story and brought closure. The character development was superb. Each character, even the absent ones, had a vital role in the plot. There really was no extra baggage to wade through and distract from the storyline. The relationships between the characters were realistic and added to the story. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good, solid contemporary mystery
anniemichelle More than 1 year ago
The cover is what drew me to the book, and then the bbb (back book blurb) was what hooked me. A wonderful read with twists and turns I did not see coming. The end was a …what the heck Just happened to the ending I was ready for?!? Abby is your average wife and mom sending her husband and daughter off on a camping trip one day and then wondering would she ever see them alive the next. Abby and her husband Nick live in the Texas Hill country and with reports of flash flooding coming in before Nick and Lindsey even leave for the camping trip starts the tension building, you know something is going to happen…but what? Her family is feared lost in the flood, with help from friends, family and law enforcement Abby starts to put together a picture that is not exactly what she was thinking. Does she really know her husband or her friends, or even herself for that matter? This book had one of the creepiest characters, or I should say siblings I have read about in a while, really had me going into “nail biting territory.” A fun page turner that kept me up late into the night.