By Bryn Chancellor
Read July 2018
Jess is a newcomer to a small town in Arizona, moving there with her newly divorced mother from Phoenix. They are both processing, in private, their loss of father/husband after he chose a younger woman and baby daughter issuing from that relationship instead of them.
Laura Drenna is a newcomer to the same small town in 2009, 18 years after Jess goes missing. She too is mourning the loss of her husband to another woman. While on one of her many walks to forget and think she finds the skeleton in a crevice. Is this the remains of Jess who went missing 18 years earlier?
Chancellor spins her story via two parallel paths.
One part of the weave is Jess’s story in in 1991—her loneliness as a new high school girl from the “big city” in a small town she didn’t choose, making one good friend who drops her for unknown reasons, making a second good friend, and beginning to find her way… for awhile… This story line is fairly straightforward and progresses through the year ending with the night she goes missing. The interesting element of this storyline is that the reader learns about what’s happening to Jess during the year and that final night, but the other characters are privy to very little of her life or thoughts and are not at all aware of what happens the final night of her life.
The other part of the weave consists of individual chapters focused on each of a dozen characters who play some role in Jess’s life including her mother, several friends, a couple of adults, and Laura who finds her. These chapters often includes their perspectives of the happenings in 1991 as well as revealing more about the character either before or since Jess goes missing or both. The form of each chapter is different. The chapter about the father of the friend is a letter he writes. The chapter about the mother of the friend, a professor of theater at the local college, is provided in the form of a script of a play. Through this set of chapters, an overall picture of the backdrop of Jess’s story in 1991 and what happens to these characters thereafter slowly evolves.
Chancellor’s approach provides an interesting approach to consideration of a not uncommon situation: an act by one causes pain to others, sometimes resulting in long-lasting damage that may never be undone.