This is a very interesting novel. The family dynamic is revealed in a well-done point-of-view switch-off, and the voice of the child who loses her parent is particularly effective. The only flaw is the many plot strings that are left hanging, not fully developed or quickly bundled at the end. It’s like the author had enough ideas for two books and couldn’t leave any of them behind. Even so, Buckley shows real talent as a writer and is one to watch in the future.
Dana has not returned to the small town of Bear Creek, Minn., in years, having left with a closely guarded secret. But a strange phone call draws her back. A niece she’s never met says that her sister needs her. But she has not had contact with her sister, who is still happily married and living in Bear Creek, since she left. When Dana gets to town, however, she finds a far different scenario than she was expecting. The town is still small, but much more prosperous than when she left, and her sister, Julie, is dead from kidney disease. Peyton, her niece, is angry and sullen by turns, and Julie’s husband, Frank, is openly hostile. Many of the people she knew are still in town, and a surprising number of them are on dialysis. What is going on here? Part of Dana wants to just leave, but she owes it to Julie to find out why she was called back. (BANTAM, Dec., 363 pp., $15.00)