Sycamore: A Novel (Paperback)
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June 2017 Indie Next List
“Eighteen years after high school junior Jess Winters vanished without a trace from Sycamore, Arizona, human bones are found near where Jess was last seen alive. Everyone in the small community, from family to friends to teachers, was profoundly affected by the unsolved mystery. Told from multiple points of view, this deeply moving story explores the fateful events that led to Jess' disappearance and slowly reveals the mistakes, secrets, and regrets, but also the humanity and the good, that reside in each of the characters. Heart-wrenching and compassionate in the manner of Kent Haruf's stories, this is a flawless first novel.”
— Pierre Camy (W), Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“This masterfully written suspense will draw you in immediately.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“[An] emotional and addicting debut. . . . [an] unforgettable page‐turner. Four and a half stars.”
“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)
“Chancellor’s absorbing first novel begins quietly, quickly gains momentum, and ends explosively. . . . This gripping debut is a must for readers of literary fiction.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”