Monday, May 8, 2017


Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor
HarperCollins: 5/9/17
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062661098

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.

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