Jul 20, 2019EljayJohnson rated this title 5 out of 5 stars
I feel like I've read quite a few books like this the last few years: family psychodramas plus a mystery of the Long-Buried Secret type. None of them have been able to touch this one. This was a first novel, which makes it even more of an accomplishment. Roy thanks Dennis Lehane in her Acknowledgments and he does a jacket blurb; apparently he's a mentor/teacher of sorts to her, and it's clear why. While their styles are entirely dissimilar, she shares his gift for characterization, which is no faint praise. With spare detail, she gives you an amazing sense of character; I could picture each family member, understand their motives and thoughts and feelings, and most importantly, believe in them. She was especially evocative when writing about the children in the story; lonely and strange Evie, and anguished and confused Daniel. Layers peel away and something is revealed without the reader realizing it's even happening.
The plot involves the Scott family, mom Celia, dad Arthur and their three children, Elaine, Daniel, and Evie. They move to farmland Kansas from inner city Detroit in the late 60's to flee the violence and racial turmoil. Arthur is returning to his hometown and extended family after a 20-year absence dating from the murder of his sister, Eve. We meet his harridan of a mother, his sweet sister and drunken lout brother-in-law, and various townspeople. Shortly after their move back, a neighbor's very young daughter disappears. The little girl looks so much like Eve did at her age...
The writing is vivid, the story haunting and memorable. It played like a movie in my head and I hope someone does buy the movie rights (Kate Winslet as Celia?). I can't wait to see what Roy writes after this exceptional work.