Book Club: Sycamore

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Author: Bryn Chancellor
ISBN: 9780062677129
RRP: $29.99

Sycamore is the debut novel of Bryn Chancellor set in the small Arizona town of Sycamore.

This book sounded fantastic; a small town story of secrets as the decades old mystery of the missing new girl in town is unraveled. I was interested to discover the answers and happy to feature the book as a June book club title.

Unfortunately I overestimated my reading capabilities this month and ran out of time. I am reading the book at the moment but want to get all my June books featured in June so we can get started on July. I will be back with a review at a later date but for now, here’s a little about the book.

Laura Drennan is a college professor who has recently moved to Sycamore after the breakdown of her marriage. Her method of coping is to walk, she spends hours walking every day because it’s the only way to keep moving. It is during one of these walks that she discovers bones stuck in the wall of a desert ravine.

Being a small town word of the grisly find gets round and as investigators work to identify the remains the town wonders if there will finally be answers for the family and friends of Jess Winters, the high school student that disappeared in 1991.

The present day community wait for answers as the investigation plays out while those who knew Jess flash back to the days before her disappearance – a tumultuous time that has not been forgotten in the small town of Sycamore.

The story opens with Jess and her mother’s arrival in Sycamore so it seems that she hadn’t been in town long before her disappearance.

Sycamore is atmospheric and written from multiple points of view, those who knew Jess get to have their say in a story that explores community, love, loss, forgiveness, remorse and resilience. Sycamore examines the treacherous transition between childhood and adulthood. I think this is going to be more than just your average suspenseful mystery and we are going to learn a lot about an entire town. I can’t wait to sink my teeth in, and I can’t wait to hear what our members think.

Sycamore is published by HarperCollins and is available now through Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to HarperCollins 25 of our Beauty and Lace club members will be reading Sycamore so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.

20 thoughts on “Book Club: Sycamore

  1. Stunning! what can I say that other reviewers haven’t already said

    After coming to grips of the storyline flipping from one timezone to another this story really takes on a life of it’s own so I found a quiet corner & found myself in the story as the characters seemed so real & my imagination did the rest
    Such a strong story with remembrances of my teenage years when we all felt unsure & unloved
    Warning tissues will be required!

    I highly recommend this book & thank Beauty & Lace for the opportunity
    To Bryn Chancellor congratulations on your debut book & hope to read many more

  2. Thankyou Beauty and Lace, Harper Collins and Bryn Chancellor for the opportunity to read “Sycamore “. When I first unwrapped my copy of this book I was taken by the feel and design of the cover , it was a. nice book to hold.
    I found the story a little hard to get into and sometimes felt I needed to go back and reread a section just to get things straight. Once getting inside the lives of the characters living in Sycamore I was turning pages quickly trying to get into their thoughts and secrets.
    Jess, I felt, was a troubled girl being up rooted from her home after her father found a new wife and started a new family which Jess struggled with throughout her short life.
    Jess after having landed with her now single mother into a new town she needed desperately to have a friend of her own,someone who cared for her.
    The writer goes into each of the characters that crisscross Jess’s live as we get to know them .
    The storyline travels from 1991 when Jess first comes to Sycamore to 2002 when a newcomer to the town finds human bones in a creek bed.
    The story goes on to tell that one night in 1991 Jess disappears leaving the reader to wonder if the bones found are Jess’s or did she just leave?
    It is a complicated story and one that I find hard to review, but every page I turned I had a different reason in my head of why Jess disappeared, none of them being the correct answer which the reader does not find out till the last few pages of the book.
    Bryn Chancellor has written an entertaining and thought provocting debut novel and I will definitely look for more of her work.

  3. Thank you for the opportunity to read “Sycamore”. Like some of the others I found it a little hard to get into the story at first. It jumps not only between time zones but also the characters in the story. The synopsis was so promising that I did not give up and was rewarded with quite the amazing tale.
    Maud and Jessie move to Sycamore when things turn bad when with Maud’s husband (making a new family of his own). Jess lives a lot inside her head and on the pages of her journals, especially being the “new kid” in town. Finally making friends and discovering a new place in the town until she makes a bad decision.
    Heading into the future and Laura moves to town after a marriage breakdown. Finding herself in a similar way to Jess , searching the town through walks and runs. Little did she expect to find Jess, who had gone missing years before.
    Persist with this book, the story is a warming and heartbreaking one that just draws you in as long as you can get past the first pages. You learn so much about all the characters, just watch that timeline jump.

    Thanks again

  4. Thank you, Beauty & Lace and Harper Collins, for the opportunity to read and review Bryn Chancellor’s novel, Sycamore.
    Wow….this was quite a read and I thoroughly enjoyed the story from the very first page, until the very last. Bryn’s style of writing and her way of describing the environment and scenery, made reading Sycamore easy for me. Everything flowed and made sense, even when the storyline would revert to 1991 again, the transition was flawless and carried me along.
    Sycamore is set in an arid, Arizona town, called Sycamore. It’s a small town where everyone knows everyone. We begin the story when a new residents Jess Winters and her Mum, Maude make a move from Pheonix to the desert town of Sycamore in 1991. Jess is a loner and a bit of a rebel, dealing with the still raw separation of her parents and the fact that her Dad has created for himself, a brand new family of his own. Jess has a habit of running and walking around late at night when most everything and everyone is fast asleep. This is the World she feels most comfortable in. Jess has trouble fitting in and it takes a while to meet her best friend Dani, who she went to school with. Dani’s parents are also having their own troubles in their marriage and Adam, the Dad, falls in love with Jess the first time he lays eye on her. This part of the story gave me the creeps a little but the way Bryn described Adam and his in-depth feelings, the love was shown to be pure and true from his side, there was nothing creepy about it. Jess and Adam dance around each other for a month or so, where nothing more than a kiss is ever explored. Dani has a boyfriend, Paul, and the three kids become the best of friends, until one night during a chance tryst at a local Orchard where Adam and Jess meet up, and Paul witnesses his girlfriend’s Dad displaying his affections for Jess.
    A few nights later, during Thanksgiving Dinner, where all characters are seated, Jess, Maude, Dani, Paul, Adam and Dani’s Mum, Rachel, Paul decides he has held on to his secret long enough and confronts the Dad in front of everyone. As expected, all hell breaks loose.
    Jess’s World has changed once again. It was during the middle of this story where I encountered a number of events that could have been the demise of Jess Winters but none ended in a fatal fashion, leaving me still wondering.
    Then one night Jess leaves her home, never to return. All her Mum knows, is that she went out for a walk. Leaving a note saying she would return around 6.30pm. From the following morning, a police search ensued and Jess was classed a ‘Missing Person’. As far as most of Sycamore’s inhabitants knew, Jess had disappeared, most likely run away. Then Jess’s bones are found, 18 years later by a walker and Bryn takes us through the history of what happened.
    I loved reading the story from a whole cast of different character’s perceptions, I found this made the mystery even more thrilling and kept me guessing, I had a few different scenarios drifting in and out of my thoughts on Jess’s cause of death. And was happy to finally discover the reason why.
    I will be extremely likely to pick up another of Bryn Chancellor’s books after reading this one. I love the way she writes, I understand everything, it flows, it’s natural.

  5. Initially I found it hard to read this book as it jumped from character to character. However, I was glad I persevered as by the end I was unable to put it down and guessing and reguessing Jess’s fate
    This story jumps from 18 years ago to the present date. At times it is told by Jess (the main character). At times it is told by others in, and impacted by her life
    This is basically the story of a teenage girl Jess trying to fit in. Jess goes missing and 18 years later, bones thought to be hers are found
    At times, it is difficult to read. More often though, it is compelling to read. A very emotive debut novel by Bryn Chancellor

  6. Sycamore is a slow burn, it creeps up on you an envelopes you like a warm hug.

    SomSycamoree books are ‘can’t put down’, but I’d say is more ‘can’t let go’.

    The language was quite poetic, sometimes intense and very thought provoking.

    The characters were deep and varied and kept you gessing.

    Sycamore is so called because it’s set in the small town of Sycamore, Arizona. It’s a place as routine as clockwork, as comfortable as a knitted jumper.

    Maud the local post mistress lost her teenage daughter over 18 years ago. Nobody knows what happened to the vivacious Jess, she ainply disappeared….

    Until ‘new in town’ college professor Laura finds some bones stuck in a ravine. Everyone thinks the worst, assuming the bones will belong to Jess.

    At times I found Sycamore a little heavy, Maud for instance was quite a depressing character. I understood her intensity, the cloud of the missing never goes away.

    But I kept turning the pages, kept peeking through the blinds, kept waiting to see what woukd happen next.

    If you want light, fluffy poolside reading, grab a magazine.

    If you want somewhat intense, drama filled meaty characters and a slow burning tapestry of a story, try Sycamore. You won’t be disappointed.

  7. Sycamore was a fabulous book. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the time and characters of the story between chapters and the steady stream of information that was fed to me throughout the novel. Reading about a girl gone missing and a body being found gave me resolution that it belonged to Jess and that I would find myself filling in the pieces of the puzzle as the story unravelled.
    I enjoyed learning about the mundane lives of many of Sycamores residents and found it easy to relate to much of their lives. Mrs G. provided a fabulous backdrop as both a support person as the class teacher to Jess, Dani, Beto and Paul but also a deep individual connection as a human being.
    I had a sense of constant dread throughout the book as I stuck with the resolution that the bones were Jess’ and that her demise may have been a result of foul play. I continued to believe this until the very end of the story when the reality of those last events came to light.
    Poor Angie proved a great character and she endured so much throughout the story. She held tight to herself and involved herself in Jess’ life at a crucial time. Unfortunately, they fell out after the hand-on-leg incident but she proved to be a continually interesting and very important character to the novel until the bitter end. She provided solace and drive and emitted an attitude that I connected with.
    Stevie, Tom, Rose, Warren, Gil, Iris and Beto all provide interesting connections to each other and the plot of the story. They provide pivotal points in the plot line that you can see a cross roads develop from and know that a key event is near but you cannot yell out to them to stop before they hit the road block head on.
    So much of Sycamores history and Jessica’s tragic undoing all happens on a tragic path created by Adam and his sense of lost youth, unloving childhood and strained life and marriage. Meeting through Dani as his frustrated and lonesome father he builds a friendship as a friend’s father and then the most lightest of touches draws them down the rabbit hole of deception and consequence.
    Rejection from friends, family and the community creates the catastrophe that is the final sequence of events that leave to Jess ending up a pile of bones exposed from the dry, cracked dirt. They create a love that lasts for eighteen years after Jess is lost and Adam is left with a gaping hole in his life. Jess rejects his offer to run away with him and leaves him alone in a cabin and wondering just like everyone else.
    The exposure and identification of Jessica’s bones ends the hard way but the community rally’s to create a memorial worthy of a girl stripped of her future.

  8. I loved Bryn Chancellor’s novel Sycamore. Initially it took a little to get a handle on the different characters and times, but then I found the story compelling and the depiction of life in small town America really wonderful. The multiple narrators allow us access to different viewpoints and to details never revealed to anyone else, and I thought the characters were skilfully constructed. This story depicts both adolescents working out who they are and their place in the world, as well as the lasting impacts of pivotal events.

    While far from a feel-good story, this page-turner is far more rewarding to read.

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for the opportunity to experience this fabulous book.

  9. I found this story to be about closure. In 1991 there were a series of events ending in a scandal and the disappearance of a young girl in a small, rural town. There are a number of characters both directly involved and more peripheral to those events. In 2016 a stranger to the town finds bones in the side of a wash/river bed. Immediately it is assumed they belong to the missing girl, Jess and memories surface with all of these characters. Those people seem to have become stuck in the life they had in 1991 without moving on. The finding of the bones encourages their memories to play out about that period in their, and Jess’s life. In that journey they all seem to find resolution to problems and become able to move on after all these years. There is also the mystery aspect to the story…are they the bones of Jess Winters? How did she die? Was it an accident, or foul play? If so, by whom?
    I found the mystery had me examining the characters as they were introduced, trying to assess which of them had the will and means to kill Jess, then I would swing to another theory…maybe she had run off. Right to the last chapter my ‘villains’ versus ‘runaway’ theories kept changing and also it isn’t until the very end that we discover whether the bones actually belong to Jess. Each character’s story was fascinating, both in 1991 and through to 2016 and their eventual closure and moving on from, either of a tragic time in their lives or more simply the stagnation of their lives.
    Maybe not a ‘normal’ read but I found it intriguing and weeks later I still think about parts of it. I would recommend it as an interesting, thought provoking story.

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