Today’s feature is a recent download: Sycamore, by Bryn Chancellor. 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.
Intro: (You Are Here – January 1991)
Her first night in Sycamore, the girl snuck out of the house. Wearing frayed purple canvas shoes and a new puffy vinyl winter coat the red-orange of an ocotillo bloom, the girl paused on her tiptoes on the threshold when the front door hinges creaked. Her mother, deaf in her left ear, didn’t stir, and the girl shut the door with a click. This wasn’t the girl’s first time to slip out the door late at night, and it wouldn’t be her last. (There would be a last time, but not tonight.) For now she had this night, her first in a small northern Arizona town where her mother had dragged her. She shoved her notebook inside her coat and hurried down the driveway. Her breath smoked in the desert winter air.
Teaser: Paul blinked. He saw her standing over the sink with the clippers, buzzing her head, the clouds of hair falling to the basin. She’d said, “Who needs it?” She’d never grown it out again, kept it cropped short. (49%).
Synopsis: 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.
What do you think? Do the excerpts grab you? Do you want to keep reading?