The majority of this novel takes place over the course of a couple of weeks in the life of Sam (Sammara). As the novel begins, Sam's mother has entered rehab for a drinking problem. Sam's father, one of the town's preachers, is in high denial mode. He has not told his congregation and even shies away from talking about it with Sam. The town's attention, though, is about to be diverted when Jody, choir soloist and member of the church, disappears. Suddenly, the focus is on finding Jody, and Sam's faith may be shaken to the core. Her mother is gone; her father is subsumed with the grieving family. The days that follow Jody's disappearance force Sam to reexamine her life, her family, her friends, and her faith.
Zarr has written a thought provoking and unique story, one that takes place over a short period of time that has a tremendous impact on its characters. Issues of religion, faith, sin, guilt, innocence, betrayal all combine effortlessly in a story that could easily descend into the didactic. Nothing is easy here; nothing is predictable. Just as the reader feels comfortable that the story will center on a dysfunctional family, there is a swerve and then a curve and some rolling hills to climb. This novel is a journey, one the reader will undertake willingly to see what will happen next and then next. Sam is not a passive victim to these turns of events. Instead, she is a reflective and catalytic teen whose introspection allows the reader to see the inner workings of a teen on the verge.
A warning: do not start reading the book unless you plan to take the next several hours to complete the reading. I did not want to abandon Sam until the end of her story.
Victoria Stapleton has galleys. Email her a request at Victoria.Stapleton@hbgusa.com