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. Tha Beautyand lace and HarperCollins for the opportunity to read and review this great book.
    Jess Winters is almost seventeen, her mother Maud and herself have moved to Sycamore from Pheonix to make a new life for themselves. Jess’s father has left them, has a new beautiful daughter and Jess is hurt as he used to call her beautiful girl, she doesn’t want any contact with him.
    Her mother calls her J-bird and does her best to help Jess feel happy in her new surroundings.

    Jess is ‘the new girl’ at her school finding it difficult to make friends and to fit in, she eventually,with the help of her teacher becomes friendly with Dani, secures after school work in a Pecan Orchard and starts to adjust to life in Sycamore until something happens and she finds herself friendless and alone. It’s easy to understand Jess, abandoned by her father, thrust into unfamiliar surroundings, no friends with a mother who spends most of her time sleeping.

    Eighteen years later Professor Laura Drennan the new professional at Sycamore College out walking exploring the area and clearing her head makes a discovery!

    I found this book so interesting, descriptive and full of personalities. I got to know and appreciate all the characters and their personalities.
    it would be an understatement to say I enjoyed it as it was such a good read.
    Make sure you have a box of tissues handy but do read it. I could not put it down!

  2. Sycamore is an exciting debut novel by Bryn Chancellor. It’s about a girl that is missing for eighteen years before a new person to town discovers her. This story is told from multiple perspectives of different characters just like the novel, “The Slap”. This book is ultimately a raw and emotional one where you feel like you get an intimate sense of each of the characters and what makes them tick.

  3. A young girl goes missing- for 18 years. A newcomer comes to town and finds her remains . It seems a town can now move forward and possible lives move forward to go with. Jess Is a teenager who did not finding life easy – she relocated to Sycamore – and was struggling. with handling her new life.

    As the story unravels we see deep into the towns interactions thoughts and many pov’s .

    The novel is a suspenseful mystery more so than a thriller – very slow to build momentum but after that took off and got intriguing. The author has penned a varied and diverse set of characters within this story. Each having there own story to tell, and pasts which all seem to fit into the puzzle.

    The story was kind of predictable but non the less interesting and will keep you reading till the very end.

    The author has written the story well, The story going back and forth from past to present between many pov’s giving us depth into the discovery , past, present and possibly moving forward.
    It seemed once the body was discovered the town kinda came to life waiting for answers .

    An interesting enough read , 3./5 stars.

  4. A teenage girl uprooted by her mother to move to a small country town where they can rebuild their life.
    A teenage girl awkward and unsure moving to a small country town where everyone knows everyone and fitting in isn’t easy.

    A mother not quite sure of her place in the world or how to carry on with life after a divorce.
    A mother who has moved towns to begin a new life doing a job she loves.

    A town where everything is within reach and everyone knows who’s reaching.
    A town where stories begin and end.

    This is a novel with so many surprises.
    It begins with a story of a girl and her mother and the time after the girl went missing.
    There are so many different parts to this story and each one floats into the next one.
    Each chapter is different and each chapter tells a story. It drifts from 1991 to 2016 so make sure you read the chapter name each time although you can tell after a short read which time you are in.
    Inside the main story about Jess and Maud there is a whole lot of other little side stories which I found quite interesting and gave such a whole new depth to the main story.

    Each chapter pulls you and teases you to find out what happened to Jess. Sometimes it feels like you have the answer but no you don’t really.
    This is a story of love, loss, letting go, moving on and new beginnings and also the past. This is a story to fall in love.

    Don’t forget the tissues.

    Thank your Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for gifting me this book to read.

    1. I have the dates wrong 1991 – 2016 It should be 1991 and ‘2009’. I read the dates off of the print out that came with the book. Didn’t think it was right but when I checked the book after I found I was wrong. Sorry.

  5. Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor is the captivating story of Jess Winters, a young teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood and all life’s possibilities, and how her disappearance and the uncertainty of what happened to her, affected an entire community.

    It is a sad book filled with all the people whose life Jess had somehow touched – from her despairing mother, her disenchanted best friend, her spurned lover(s), school friends and neighbours. These people’s guilt, their secrets, their regrets and lost opportunities, and the limbo, they all live in, wondering if Jess is dead or has run away to a new life somewhere, all form the basis of this book. And it is through their individual stories, flipping back between the year Jess disappeared and the present day that you begin to piece together, who she was involved with, in what ways they were connected, and eventually to find out what did happen to Jess.

    It is compelling reading – a real page turner and although it is definitely full of sorrow and regret, it is ultimately a book about people’s resilience, their ability to forgive and move on and their hope. An interesting read.

  6. Sycamore centres around 17 year-old Jess, who has been missing for the past 18 years.
    Jess had recently moved to Sycamore with her mother after her parents got divorced. Her father re-married and had another daughter, leaving her mother depressed and lonely.
    The mysterious circumstances surrounding Jess’ disappearance have left the community of Sycamore wondering what ever happened to her.
    But one day, a newcomer to the town discovers some bones when she is out walking, and as the residents of Sycamore wait to find out if indeed Jess has been found at last, they each share their stories and reflect on their relationships with her. It took me a little while to get in to the story as I found the first 50-100 pages a little slow going, but it soon started to piece together from that point.
    There are many points of view in this book, and the time line reverts back and forth, which I found a little confusing initially, but it didn’t take long to form a better understanding of the story. I thought that this was a sad story but told very well.
    Thank you to Beauty & Lace and Harper Collins Australia for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  7. this is a book that I felt compelled to go back over and read some sections to see if I had missed a vital clue as to who or what killed Jess.. I made many stabs during the course of reading it, and guess what, I was wrong every single time. This book tells us about what it was, going through the mind of Jess, and how, because she had come with her mother and moved, and felt that none in the town accepted her, found it difficult for herself to settle down to school, and friends. she worked when she could, and in reading her story it was a little difficult to not feel her pain, as an outsider. I enjoyed reading this book, and shall go back to it once more, say after next xmas, when it will probably present itself different to me Thank you for the chance to read, and then to be able to put a review in….

  8. Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor.
    In 1991 a teenage girl, Jess Winters disappears suddenly from Sycamore a small town in Arizona.
    In 2016 Laura Drennan, a teacher and new to the town, stumbles across what turns out to be human bones.
    Initially I found the book hard to follow with the large number of characters. Jess’ Mum, her teacher, her friends and their parents, the family of her part time job, her boyfriend. and others. They are all important and all have a part to play in the story.
    I found it well worth continuing and was soon caught up in the mystery. Do the bones belong to Jess, what happened to her and who was responsible. I made several assumptions which were all wrong!

    The story is told in two time lines. The 1991. story line is told by Jess, her Mum and all the others in her life. All have a secret that involves Jess.

    Then she vanishes.

    The 2016 story line is told by her Mum and all the same people who were in her life when she disappeared. While waiting for the bones to be identified they reflect on their pasts and their unresolved issues and where their lives are now.

    The book shows how a loss, her disappearance, an unsolved mystery impacts on everyone who knew her.
    It is a mystery story. A story of teenagers and difficulties they face, a story of grief, friendship and hope.
    It was an excellent read and I thoroughly recommend the book.
    Thankyou to Harper Collins and Beauty and Lace.

  9. This one is a hard one for me to review!
    Even after a couple of days Im still not sure how i feel about it!
    I definately enjoyed the story on review but at the same time I found it a hard book to read!
    It was a very descriptive book but at times I found it a little too descriptive and this seemed to interupt the flow of the story and lost me at times.
    In the end I am glad I pushed through with the book as it was a good story and I would still recommend as everyone’s opinions are different and hopefully not as confused as mine!
    Thanks Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read this debut from Bryn Chancellor. Although this book left me in two minds about it I do look forward to reading future books by her.

  10. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read and review Bryn Chancellor’s debut novel Sycamore. To say I loved this book would be an understatement.

    Maud and Jess Winter, her 16 year old daughter, move to Sycamore in January 1991 after Jess’ parents divorce. Jess is struggling with the image of her father, his new blond wife and new baby girl, beautiful girl, something he had once called her. When younger she had desperately wanted a baby sister, instead what she had got was a replacement for her.

    Like many teenagers Jess is full of angst, at 5 foot 10 she also stands out, moving to a small town, starting a new school trying to fit is never easy, Jess is carrying a lot of emotional baggage which makes it even harder.

    Jess often seeks the peace of the night, slipping out while her mother sleeps, her notebook clutched to her chest. A sentence in the first paragraph in the book “This wasn’t the first time to slip out the door late at night, and it wouldn’t be her last. (There would be a last time, but not tonight).” portends the future.

    In June 2009 Professor Laura Drennan moves to Sycamore after separating from her husband of 11 years to take the only tenure job available, teaching History and Latin American studies at the Sycamore college. One day while walking she discovers what appears to be a human bone protruding from a wall of stones down by the lake.

    When Detective Gil Alvarez turns up in Maud’s driveway she knows, this is the news she has been waiting to receive for the last 18 years since Jess disappeared that night. Forensics still need to determine if it is Jess and what happened but Maud has always known that Jess did not run away and is sure that this is where her body lays.

    Chancellor flips between 1991 and 2009 as she builds the story of Jess and what happened that fateful night. In doing so she develops a number of important characters from Jess’ school days to the present, gently yet accurately exploring the issues of teenager-hood, including sex and sexuality, the drama caused by a friend’s father’s mid life crisis and the effect on family and friends and the impact on a town and a mother of not knowing what happened to cause Jess to disappear.

    I found this to be a powerful and evocative book that I found hard to put down and would highly recommend it (although you may want a box of tissues nearby later in the story). I give it 5 stars.

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