Secrets gain power the longer they are held, and there are twisted secrets aplenty in Burt’s (Remembering Mia, 2015) second novel—a lifetime of them.
Burt shares Dahlia Waller’s past through a patchwork of her memories as the adult Dahlia struggles to uncover the secrets she knows her mother harbors—why couldn’t Dahlia go to school or play with other kids? Why did they pack up and run in the middle of the night? Why was her mother eternally vigilant? Dahlia and her mother, Memphis, spend Dahlia’s childhood as transients, living in trailer parks and seedy motels as they flee across Texas and New Mexico to California. They eventually return to their Texas roots, but when she’s old enough, Dahlia, always at odds with her mother, moves away. When she returns years later, she upsets the uneasy peace her mother had found. Back at home she's caught in a whirlwind of emotions, memories she can’t place, strange visions, and an odd confluence of events. Her mother’s declining mental function galvanizes Dahlia's determination to get to the bottom of the mystery that is her life. Burt knows how to propel a strongly character-driven novel forward, using intrigue, mystery, plot twists, and rich—sometimes grisly—sensory imagery. Her insightful ability to make the turmoil within Memphis and Dahlia visible and believable makes for strong female characters who are nevertheless flawed and somewhat unreliable narrators. The look into their inner chaos is both fascinating and unsettling and speaks to the strength of the human will to survive even under the most adverse conditions.
Burt’s tale captivates to the bitter end, by which time “everything that was done in the dark has come into the light.”