Sycamore: A Novel (Paperback)
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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.
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.
“This hypnotic debut probes the disappearance of 17-year-old Jess . . . . Chancellor shifts nimbly between past and present and from character to character, cutting away the net of riddles that ensnares Sycamore’s residents.”
— Oprah magazine, “O’s Top 20 Books to Read This Summer”
“A mystery, a coming-of-age story, and an ensemble drama are woven together in this tale of love, loss, grief…and human remains found deep in the desert.”
— Glamour, “New Books by Women You’re Guaranteed to Love This Summer”
“This masterfully written suspense will draw you in immediately.”
— Bustle, “The 15 Best Fiction Books of May” Bustle, “The 15 Best Fiction Books of May”
“With a few opening words in each chapter, we’re immersed in their worlds and the hefty burdens of their years-long emotional struggle. . . . Chancellor creates suspense and tension in quiet, insular moments—family members brooding at the dinner table, lustful gazes, the rolled eyes of hormonal teenagers.”
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Sycamore, Ariz., is a small town with loss and mystery at its heart. A visitor stumbles upon clues that dredge up the old memories and hurts.”
— Philadelphia Inquirer, “Need a Beach Read? 16 Great Choices”
“The novel glimmers with its author’s keen understanding of lives at all ages and stages. . . . At once haunting and hopeful, Sycamore displays Chancellor’s talent across all of fiction’s realms and showcases her generosity of spirit. . . . Powerful and moving.”
— Richmond Times-Dispatch
“[An] emotional and addicting debut. . . . [an] unforgettable page‐turner. Four and a half stars.”
— RT Book Reviews
“Riveting. . . . This is a movingly written, multi-voiced novel examining how one tragic circumstance can sow doubt about fundamental things. . . . a transporting vision of community, connection, and forgiveness.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review, Pick of the Week)
— Publishers Weekly
“Chancellor’s absorbing first novel begins quietly, quickly gains momentum, and ends explosively. . . . This gripping debut is a must for readers of literary fiction.”
— Library Journal (starred review)
“A meaty, suspenseful debut.”
“What’s more wonderful than a novel that keeps you up at night and haunts you through the day? That describes Bryn Chancellor’s Sycamore, about the discovery of a body that might belong to a vanished teenaged girl, a community pulling together and apart, and secrets.”
— Caroline Leavitt
“Sycamore is an amazing showcase for Bryn Chancellor’s great talent. . . . This is a powerful debut novel, one without flaw, and it will slay you.”
— Kevin Wilson, author of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and The Family Fang
“Haunting and elegiac. . . . Chancellor’s multivocal narrative brims with intelligence and insight, and her subtle writing poignantly illuminates the ways in which we are sometimes bound, for better and for worse, by a collective sorrow.”
— Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold Fame Citrus
“Bryn Chancellor explores the complexities of a small-town girlhood with insight and compassion. A page-turner and a heart-breaker, Sycamore marks the arrival of a shining new voice.”
— Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow
“Bryn Chancellor’s Sycamore instantly reminded me of Tana French’s thrillers: a small, intertwined community, a long-ago crime, the tension and intrigue that won’t stop rippling....Chancellor writes gorgeously, and her story is riveting and real. I love it.”
— Joy Castro, author of Hell or High Water and Island of Bones Joy Castro, author of Hell or High Water and Island of Bones
“Bryn Chancellor’s compelling debut novel, Sycamore, weaves a suspenseful web around a small town in the years following a disappearance. With astute emotional and psychological observations, Chancellor successfully shows the power of the unknown as various individuals explore the many what ifs and imaginings of what really happened.”
— Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life