From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train comes a novel about friendship and the memories that haunt us.
On the night of her high school graduation, Kathryn Campbell sits around a bonfire with her four closest friends, including the beautiful but erratic Jennifer. “I’ll be fine,” Jennifer says, as she walks away from the dying embers and towards the darkness of the woods. She never came back.
Ten years after Jennifer’s unexplained disappearance, Kathryn is a grad-school dropout living in Virginia, stuck in a dead-end writing job and marriage. She has few close friends; most people have learned not to depend on her. When she decides to leave her husband, she ships her boxes to her mother’s house in Bangor, Maine. She has nowhere else to go.
When Kathryn returns home, her former classmates are preparing for their ten-year reunion. Old questions about graduation night surface. Jennifer begins to dominate Kathryn’s life, just as she did in high school. Enigmatic and troubled, Jennifer had always depended on Kathryn’s devotion and asked for sacrifices. A decade after Jennifer walked into the woods alone, Kathryn decides that she must follow her friend’s lead, one last time.
Involving herself in the daily rhythms of small-town life, Kathryn begins an investigation into her past. She renews contacts with old friends and teachers, using her skills as a journalist to reconstruct the life that she and Jennifer shared. Kathryn knows that she must examine what she knew about her friend, and what she didn’t. She must decide what she is willing to risk to know the truth. She must decide what her own future is worth. With nothing left to lose, she is determined to answer one simple question: What ever happened to Jennifer Pelletier?
The author of Sweet Water offers a taut, absorbing novel about a woman who must solve a haunting mystery in order to move on with her life. Kathryn Campbell has been in emotional limbo since the mysterious disappearance of her best friend, Jennifer, on the night of their 1986 high-school graduation. A decade later, she finds herself returning to their hometown of Bangor, Maine--even though, with a failed marriage under her belt and a journalism career idling in neutral, moving back in with her (also divorced) mother is probably not the best way to boost her self-esteem. So when a friend asks Kathryn to write a newspaper story about Jennifer, Kathryn reluctantly agrees. Since Kathryn's return coincides with her class's reunion, she has ample opportunity to interview the four former companions who were with Jennifer on that fateful night, as well as others who might have played a hand in Jennifer's baffling disappearance. As Kathryn delves into her best friend's background, unnerving facts about the seemingly golden girl start to emerge, and soon it is obvious that someone is trying to thwart her investigation. The mystery of why Jennifer vanished becomes even more puzzling as new facts come to light, and Kathryn's eventual insight that some ambiguities are part of life brings depth to the narrative. Kline's edge-of-the-seat denouement ties up the plot threads with dexterity and also allows for a plausible future for Kathryn herself.
Another fantastic Christina Baker Kline
I'm so thrilled when one of her books appears on the under $4 list! Not that they aren't worth more, they are. Her characters live in your head even when you're not actively reading. She writes beautifully and spins great tales, too.
A great read!
Good character development and plot. The story weaves in the conflicted main character's relationship with her mother, father and husband with a challenging murder mystery.
Themes of loss, innocence, and coming of age are cleanly tackled.
I found the book hard to put down and the characters stayed with after I put it aside for work. Highly recommended.