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A Southwest Book of the Year (2017)
"In this masterful performance, Bryn Chancellor explores the loss around which an entire community has calcified with humanity and wisdom. Chancellor digs deep in these pages, unearthing broken hearts, secrets, betrayals, passion and—most impressively—grace. What a joy to find a book that is both propulsive and perfectly composed."—Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest
An award-winning writer makes her debut with this mesmerizing page-turner in the spirit of Everything I Never Told You and Olive Kitteridge.
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.
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Bryn Chancellor’s story collection When Are You Coming Home? (University of Nebraska Press) won a Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and her short fiction has appeared in Gulf Coast, Blackbird, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, Phoebe, and elsewhere. Other honors include the Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award in fiction, and literary fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and the North Carolina Arts Council. She teaches at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Throughly enjoyable read. Well done story line , interesting characters . Highly recommend
I'm not sure what exactly to say about this book. It is obvious that many people just loved this novel, but for me it was a very difficult read. Yes this was a very literary, beautifully written and very deep novel and not something you would want to take on vacation to perk yourself up or to get lost in. The book does not really end well -or at least it doesn't end in any way other than the one which we already figured out right fro the beginning. As a matter of fact, in some ways it was a deeply disturbing novel - (this is a bit of a spoiler but needs to be said as it is missing from the synopsis) -there is a pedophilia aspect to this book that some will find...disconcerting? upsetting? contrived? brilliant? It was an interesting choice of the author to tackle something like this subject, but it is not the main crux of the book...it just seems to be that way since the topic is so controversial. I struggled to get at least half-way though and them at about 80% I just started skimming to find out for sure how this was going to conclude. My problems mostly stem from the fact that this book is told from so many different view points and the time frame switches back and forth from the year 1991 to the year 2009 (and I think we even did a horizontal time shift at one point. LOL). Another thing I had difficulties with is that most of the main character's seem to need heavy doses of anti-depressants and top notch psychiatrists - there was not a single person who didn't have some sort of angst problem, which for me made this a very depressing read. Yes, this is normal in any town -large or small, but it might have helped to have one person who doesn't go off the deep end, who can keep their cool even during the worst that life can dish out. I do understand that not everyone's lives are filled with sunshine and roses, so this is another reason why this book is going to be a hit. It really deals with real life in all of it's uncomfortable nakedness. For me, I need something that takes me away from the problem's in my life and being reminded for this many pages on how bad it is out there just made me more depressed than I usually am. *ARC supplied by publisher/and or author.
I enjoyed this story.
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 and I know for certain that this book will stay with me for a very long, long time.
Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor is a very highly recommended debut literary mystery that explores a gamut of emotions. This is compelling reading. In 1991 Seventeen year old Jess Winters has just moved to Sycamore, AZ, with her mother, Maud. Jess's father has left them for his new young wife and new baby daughter. We know that Jess disappears in December of 1991 and no one knows what happened to her. Her disappearance has haunted the town. Her mother Maud has never given up hope that she would find an answer to what happened someday. In 2009 a woman out walking finds bones that may be those of Jess. Sycamore flips back and forth in time, as well as the voices of different characters, between 1991 and 2009. The story of what happened to Jess back in 1991 slowly emerges, as does the current information about the other citizens of Sycamore, the former friends, classmates, neighbors, and teachers who knew Jess, then and now. The multiple points of view enrich the story and give an added emotional depth to the answers that are forthcoming as the novel progresses. This spellbinding novel covers a multitude of emotions and subjects. It is a coming-of-age story with all the teenage angst that this suggests. It is an exploration of friendship and loneliness. It covers a variety of betrayals and faithlessness. It delves into love, grief, secrets, passions, rumors, disillusion, unfaithfulness, and hope. The novel begins quietly, but gradually becomes increasingly tense and complicated. These are broken people depicted on the pages of Sycamore, but even broken people search for happiness and a way to belong. This novel is a well-written gem. The writing is marvelous. I was totally engrossed in both narratives, 1991 and 2009. If you enjoy literary fiction, as I do, you are going to see several corresponding themes running through the novel, connecting past and present. If you want to sit back and enjoy a well-written mystery, Sycamore will also fit that description. This is a novel that should be savored. And keep your eyes on Chancellor for more novels in the future. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.