I was thrilled when I saw that Holly Goddard Jones was going to be attending the UCF Book Festival. Great reviews of this book have been everywhere, but like a billion other books, it sat out there in the elusive "want to read but have no time" category. I was worried about all the print books I had to read in order to support the festival, so I ordered this one on audio.
Synopsis: A young woman, known in the small town of Roma, Kentucky for her wild and unreliable nature, has gone missing. The events that led up to her disappearance, and the consequences of those events, ripple out through the community in ways that nobody can foresee.
Emily is an awkward 8th grader, a loner, bullied at school, and loves to go for walks in the woods. She has a terrifying secret, however, that could have devastating effects if not shared. There is Susanna, Ronnie's sister, who loves her little girl but is withering in her marriage and is exhausted in trying to do it all. She has a glimpse of her lost youth in Tony, the black police detective who was once the high school baseball star and freshman crush. There is Wyatt, a single, overweight, middle-aged factory worker who allows himself to be pushed around by the younger, rowdier men at work, and wonders where his life went astray.
It is the worries, fears, inhibitions, secrets and prejudices of these townsfolk that are slowly revealed in this dark study of human nature.
My thoughts: I'm not sure if there is anything I can add about this book that others have not already eloquently stated. But, in a world with hundreds upon hundreds of murder mysteries, this type of book stands apart. There is a mystery, and we are slowly given the details of exactly what happened. The mystery isn't even all that hard to figure out. That, however, is not the point.
This is a book about small towns, the people who live in them, their inner demons and their connection with each other in the case of Ronnie Eastman. It is a dark, murky character study, along the lines of what we get from authors like Tana French or Kate Atkinson. It also reminded me of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, with its sense of place and abandoned dreams.
Make no mistake, the book is dark and the characters aren't always likable. I think that is the way it should be. Having grown up in a small town, I know that the eccentricities and kindnesses of its inhabitants are magnified. The gossip mill is fully functioning, and old wounds are never forgotten. The author is keenly tuned in to these quirks, and has mined them with a smart perspective. I truly look forward to reading more of her work.
A few words about the audio production: Cassandra Campbell, my friends. Need I say more?
Audio book length: 14 hours and 35 minutes (384 pages)
4.5 out of 5 stars